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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PLJTES 

PAGE 

View over the Forest from near Malwood. Etched bv Alexander 

Ansted Frontispiece 

A Forest Heath, near Lyndhurst. Etched by John Fullwood to face 22 

The Rufus Glade. By Lancelot Speed ,, ,, 54 

Herding Swine in the New Forest. By Lancelot Speed „ ,, 76 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT 



In the Forest near Lvndhurst 



9 



The Queen's House, Lyndhurst 11 

Cottage at Lyndhurst i? 

A Dead Giant, Mark Ash 15 

Charcoal Burner's Hut, Bolderwood 10 

Matley Passage and Matley Bog 25 

Knightwood Oak, Mark Ash 29 

The Heronry at Vinney Ridge 31 

The Adder-Catcher ■j-j 

Brockenhurst Church ^r 

Bridge near Brockenhurst 36 



The Forest Ponies 



45 



218395 



4 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Beaulieu Abbey 59 

Gate House, Beaulieu 62 

Beaulieu 63 

Interior of Beaulieu Church 65 

The Edge of the Forest, near Lymington 67 

The Harbour, Lymington 69 

A Creek on the Beaulieu River 70 

Beaulieu River at Buckler's Hard 72 

Highcliffe 77 



THE NEW FOREST 



CHAPTER I 

THE CENTRAL FOREST AND ITS CAPITAL 

The wholly foreign character of its creation — Its vast extent — The alleged cruelty in its 
aff'oresting — Modern views — The nature of forest laws — The forest preserved by 
their survival — Lynd hurst the centre and capital of the Forest — The Verderers'' Hall 
and Court — The pilgrimage to Mark Ash — Swan Green — The wild and open forest — 
The Lymington stream — The hush of the forest — The progressive splendour of the trees — 
The wealth of ornatnent in the old woods — The charcoal-burner^ s hut — Voices of the 
forest — Alone in the sanctuary. 

The historical link which the New Forest has with the associations 
in every English mind is fixed to the era of the Normans. It was the 
foreign Norman and Angevin Kings of England who made and used the 
forest. It lay in the same county, and within a ride of their palace 
and capital at Winchester; and they took their sport from Mai wood on 
their way to Rouen, riding down after a few days' deer-shooting to 
Beaulieu or Lymington, where the galleys waited to take them across the 
Channel, much as the royal yachts wait to take Her Majesty Queen 
Victoria across the Solent to Osborne. 

But the subsequent part played by the forest as a hunting ground 
for kings, and a district exempt from the general law of the land, and 
at the absolute disposal of the sovereign, is entirely eclipsed by the 
picturesque and dramatic incidents which tradition has assigned to its 
violent creation by the first Norman monarch, and its requital, not only 
by the violent death of the second, but by those of two other children 



6 THE NEW FORESr 

of the Conqueror in this fatal precinct. His son, Richard, who was 
supposed to be in his disposition the special image of his father, when not 
yet of an age to be girded with the belt of knighthood, was the first victim. 
He is said to have been fatally injured by the branch of a tree when 
riding after a stag; and there is a record in Domesday Book of lands 
restored by his father to their rightful owner as an offering for Richard's 
soul.^ The second son of the Conqueror who died in the forest was 
another Richard, an illegitimate child, whose death seems to have been 
forgotten in the greater catastrophes of the death of the elder Richard 
and of Rufus, which preceded and followed it. 

Whatever belief is to be given to the tale of cruelty in its 
afforesting, the size and character of the district, which the Conqueror 
devoted to his use as a " single and mighty Nimrod," by the simple act of 
putting it under forest law, is a measure of the scope of that imperial 
mind. The area was as large as that of the Isle of Wight. It was 
bounded on the north by the line from the river Avon to the river Ouse, 
separating Hampshire from Wiltshire ; by the river Avon on the west, 
down to Christchurch. By the sea from Christchurch to Calshot Castle ; 
by the Southampton Water, and by the river Ouse. Within these 
boundaries are about 224 square miles, containing 143,360 acres of land, 
of which even now 90,000 acres are still within the boundary of the 
forest. Its natural features were such as to make it a hunter's paradise. 
From the swirling salmon river at Christchurch, to the wide lagoon of 
Southampton Water, it exhibited and still contains, almost every natural 
feature which made the forests, " reguni -penetralia et eorum maxima 
delicia,'" "the chief delight of kings, and their secret and secure retreat." 
Fronted by the sheltered waters of an inland sea, and pierced by the four 
wide, beautiful, and commodious estuaries of Christchurch, Lymington, 
Beaulieu, and Southampton Water, its heaths, pools, wastes, thickets and 
bogs, studded and interlaced with good ground, producing deep and 
ancients woods, made it a natural and unrivalled sanctuary for game. 

The charge against the Conqueror of " wasting " this district appears 

in its most violent form in the pages of Lingard. " Though the king 

possessed sixty-eight forests, besides parks and chases, in different parts 

of England, he was not satisfied, but for the occasional accommodation of 

^ Freeman, Norman Conquest^ Vol. iv. p. 609. 



rHE NEW FOREST 7 

his court, afforested an extensive tract of country lying between Winchester 
and the sea-coast. The inhabitants were expelled ; the cottages and 
churches were burnt ; and more than thirty square miles of a rich and 
populous district were withdrawn from cultivation and converted into a 
wilderness, to afford sufficient range for the deer, and ample space for 
the royal diversion." "Many populous towns and villages and thirty-six 
parish churches," is the more circumstantial estimate of others, Voltaire 
first questioned this tradition on grounds of general historical criticism. 
Cobbett easily detected its improbability, from a mere examination of 
the soil of the forest. It could never have been a " rich and populous 
district " simply because, for the greater part, the soil is among the 
poorest in the south of England. Thirty thousand acres were in 1849 
reported unfit either for agriculture, the growth of trees, or pasturage. 
The test of figures also throws a doubt on the destruction of the villages. 
In the original area of the fiDrest there still remain eleven parish 
churches on sites where churches were in existence before the time of the 
Conqueror. " If he destroyed thirty-six parish churches, what a popu- 
lous country this must have been ! " writes Cobbett. " There must have 
been forty-seven parish churches ; so that there was over this whole 
district, one parish church to every four-and-three-quarter square miles." 

The modern inference from these criticisms goes to the extreme 
of considering, that in making the forest, William confined himself 
to enforcing the forest law within its boundaries, thereby reserving 
the exclusive right of sporting for himself, while " men retained 
possession of their lands, their woods, mills, or other property, just as 
before, save for the stringent regulations of the forest law." ^ 

Even so the interference with liberty and property, due to this 
extraordinary Norman provision for the amusement of the monarch is 
almost incredible to modern ideas. 

" Forest law " made of the area to which it might at any moment be 
applied, a kind of " proclaimed district," where the law of the land at 
once ceased to run, and the rights of property only existed under con- 
ditions which were mainly^ but not entirely, directed to the preservation 
of game. Its excuse was that it was a convenient method of placing wild 

1 Arboriculture of the New Forest, by the Hon. G. Lascelles, Deputy Surveyor, New- 
Forest. 



8 THE NEW FOREST 

districts, infested by outlaws, under the strong government of the king, 
in place of the timid " presentments " of frightened villagers, and that it 
formed a reserve of men and munitions of war for the sovereign. The 
assize of the forest of 1184 by Henry II. gives a good notion of the 
working of these laws in the New Forest, and a clue to the survivals 
which are still there found. No one might sell or give anything from 
his own wood, if within the forest, which would destroy it : only fire- 
wood {estoverid) was to be taken. The result was that no large timber 
could be felled, and this therefore ceased to be private property within 
the Crown forests. The king's foresters were to be answerable if this 
wood was destroyed. No one was to agist (turn out) his cattle before the 
king " agisted " his. The king could agist his fifteen days before 
Michaelmas, and closed the woods fifteen days after Michaelmas. No 
spring grazing was allowed, so saplings and seedlings had a chance to 
grow. Open spaces were to be cut where deer could be shot at, like 
the " rides " in our pheasant covers. No tanner or bleacher of skins was 
to live in a forest, and " no receivers or thieves." 

But the rigour of forest law was mitigated in the days of Henry III., 
the whole of whose charter of the forests is framed against the an- 
noyance which the inhabitants had felt from the severity of the 
former laws. It provided that every free man should be allowed to 
" agist " his own wood in a forest when he pleased, and to have his own 
eyries of hawks, sparrow-hawks, falcons, eagles and herons. It granted 
permission to drive pigs and cattle through the forest, and let them 
spend a night on the king's land, with other privileges, which were 
probably the origin of many " forest rights " now claimed in the 
district. Are we then to conclude that the hardships suffered by the 
inhabitants of the " Ytene," the Saxon name of the New Forest, were 
limited to such as were incidental to the enforcement of forest laws '^. 
Such a consoling answer can scarcely be given. In spite of the inaccuracies 
of the form in which it has come down to us, the tradition of the 
wasting of this particular forest and the confiscation of land^ are too 
unanimous to be disregarded. 

^ Freeman quotes an instance of confiscation from Domesday. "The sons of Godric 
Ralf hold under the King at Minstrad. Their father had three hides and a half of 
land. Now his sons have only half a hide. The rest of the ground is in the forest." 



lo THE NEW FOREST 

The " stiffness " and cruelty of such a course are too much in 
keeping with the character of the king, who turned into a desert 
the whole district between the Humber and the Tees. The forest 
was perfectly suited by site and soil for William's purpose, and it 
is difficult to doubt that in its afforestation hardships were inflicted, 
which were remembered long after the general hatred of the Normans 
had died away. 

But it must not be forgotten that though the rigours of the forest 
laws as a means of preserving game relaxed, the protection given by 
them to the woods was never withdrawn, and it is to them that we 
owe the preservation of the ancient timber until the present day. 
When laxly administered, as in the days of Charles I. and the Common- 
wealth, the woods have been invariably destroyed ; when enforced, as 
by James I. and later in the days of William III. the trees have increased, 
and descended to us as one of the finest national inheritances. The 
present management of the forest, under an act passed in 1877, is 
based on the principle that all, except some 20,000 acres, inclosed since 
the year 1700, shall remain open and wild. But in this wild area 
forest law still runs, and protects the timber from waste and robbery. 

In the Verderers' Hall at Lyndhurst the survivals of forest 
law and forest customs appear by the dumb witness of fixed engines 
of justice as primitive as the oaks of Brockenhurst. One end 
of the bare old chamber is fitted up as a court, in which offenders 
against the custom of the forest, wood and fern stealers, or those 
who have transgressed the limits within which cattle may be kept, 
or other liberties of the forest, are presented by the " agisters," who 
play the part of the knights from the hundreds, and townsmen from 
the township, who " presented " criminals in the shire moots. " Pre- 
sented," the offender certainly is ; for he is exposed to the public 
view in the most primitive dock existing in England. The prisoner 
sits on a kind of perch, to which he climbs by a step. Behind this 
is a square back with cross-pieces of black oak, with the rough axe 
marks still showing, and immediately in front, beyond the narrow 
interval of the clerk's table is the full bench of verderers. Assuming, 
as is probable, that this is a copy of the most ancient arrangement of 
such courts, we can imagine how some trembling wretch, with the 



12 THE NEW FOREST 

prospect of maiming or blinding before him, must have felt before 
the scowl of the forest rangers of Norman or Angevin kings, on 
this seat of justice over against him. Besides the rude accommodation 
for judges and prisoners, the court contains a recess filled with books 
on forest law which, by that grace of congruity which seems inseparable 
from everything in this strangely perfect region, are screened by the 
most appropriate curtain that could be devised, the skin of a red deer. 
The walls are decorated by horns of deer, red and fallow. Whatever 
the history of the great stirrup, which hangs upon the wall, and is said 
to have belonged to William Rufus, it is a notable relic, and thoroughly 
in place in this hall of woodland justice. It is clearly the stirrup in 
which the thickly-mailed feet of the days of plate armour, with their 
broad iron toes were thrust, thick enough and broad enough to give 
"support" for the most ponderous horseman in his coat of steel; 
and so wide, that the legend that all dogs which could not be 
passed through it were considered possible enemies to game, and 
therefore maimed does not seem improbable, except in regard to dates. 

Lyndhurst is by size and position the true capital of the forest. 
There stands the ancient Queen's House, to which the Verderers' Hall 
is attached, and in which the Deputy-Surveyor of the Forest has his 
residence, and on the high mound of natural verdure in the centre of 
the town, the soaring spire of its church shoots up, and dominates the 
immense tract of woodland, of which it forms the natural centre. 

The town has no mean outskirts, or squalid surroundings. The 
woodlands run up to its old houses like a sea ; and the parks surrounding 
the fine mansions, which fringe the forest capital, are mere incidents in its 
scenery, lost and absorbed in the wild woods around them. Cuf?"nalls 
Park, a grassy hill clothed with oaks and beeches, lies just outside the 
town, and leads the eye by an easy transition, from the formal gardens of 
the Lyndhurst houses, to the uncovenanted graces of the natural forest. 
Beyond the park the road divides to Burley and Christchurch on the 
left, to Ringwood on the right, and at the parting of the ways, 
the forest at once and without reserve flings itself across the field 
of sight. Thence to Mark Ash, the most renowned of all the ancient 
woods, the way lies through scenes in an ascending scale of beauty which 
mark this as the first path to be trodden by the pilgrim and stranger. 



THE NEW FOREST 



13 



The understanding needs time to eddy round the crowding forms that 
claim its homage. It is the Eleusinian Way, along which the genius of the 
forest seems to lead the neophyte gently by the hand, saying, " Look on 
this, and that, and that, first grasp the lesser, then the greater mysteries, 
until with eyes and understanding opened you may enter and enjoy the 
earthly paradise of perfect beauty which lies beyond." 

Thus the mind keeps its sense of proportion, and the excitement and 







Cottage at L'^ndhurst. 



Stimulus of this appeal to the sense of admiration is maintained, as the 
appetite grows with the beauty which feeds it. Slow and lingering should 
be the tread, silent and solitary the traveller, in a first journey 
to the high places of the forest, assured that, though the first steps are 
through the scenes of laughing rustic prettiness, by lawns and groves, 
the playgrounds of the forest children, and pastures of the forest cattle, 
ground that in other times would have been sacred to Faunus and Pan, 
and all their merry crew, he will at last pass beyond the ways of men, 
and find himself face to face with masterpieces of Nature's hand, before 
which he must stand silent and amazed. 



14 THE NEW FOREST 

From CufFnalls Park two winding roads lead up the steep ascent 
on either hand. In the space between, sloping gently upwards towards 
the light is neither field nor fence, but against the sky-line is ranged 
a crescent of oaks and beeches, fronted by most ancient thorns. 
Three shapes, three colours distinguish tree from tree, through their 
centre a green glade winds up into the wood, and from their feet 
a smooth lawn of turf flows gently down into the point at which 
the roads divide, watched on either hand by a sentinel oak. 

" Swan Green " is the name of this beautiful lawn. Beyond its 
slope lies the village of Emery Down, after which the signs and 
sounds of human habitation disappear with a suddenness almost startling. 
The road lies through rolling tracts of the most wild and ancient forest 
land. Right and left the slopes are clothed with trees in the prime and 
vigour of their age. Some few are oaks ; but the beech is the indigen- 
ous, or perhaps the growing tree of this stately tract of forest, and from 
this point onwards the mind is incessantly invited to consider the manifold 
beauties of form which even one species of forest tree presents. 

There seems no limit to the hall of columns which fades away into 
dim distance in the wood, though the space between the stem is clear 
and open. The gray trunks shoot straight upwards to the sky each with 
its smooth surrounding lawn. The tallest beeches which spring on the 
slope of the hill-sides seem to draw back with a certain reticence from 
the broad pathways of the glades, drooping their branches downward and 
wrapping them round their feet with a dainty and almost feminine dignity 
and reserve. Others grow like oaks, flinging their branches abroad in 
wild disordered tangles. 

There are those among them which have already passed their prime, 
and yet scarcely show the symptoms of decay. In many beeches the 
first years of decline add dignity to their forms. The tree dies from the 
top ; but at first this appears only by a cessation of upward growth. 
The branches at the summit thicken, cluster, and multiply, like the 
antlers on an old stag's horns, giving to the whole massive and weighty 
proportions in strange contrast to the usual graceful and feathery outlines 
of its race. In others, further advanced in the stages of decay, the 
vigour of the lower branches so arrests the eye, that it scarcely travels 
beyond the mass of leafage, though above and from the centre of the 



THE NEW FOREST 



15 



healthy boughs an upright growth of bare gray limbs rises grimly naked 
and alone. 

Some two miles from Lyndhurst the hush of the forest begins. If 
the wind is still, and the trees motionless, there is a silence which can be 
felt. In winter or early spring, before the summer migrants have arrived, 
or the hum of insects has begun to stir the air, the sense of hearing is 
not excited by any form of sound. There are neither men nor children 




J Dead Giant, Mark Ask. 



in this part of the wood, the cattle are away on distant lawns, the deer 
are hidden in the thick inclosures, and the great birds which haunt the 
forest are away, in the still grander and more solemn precincts of 
the most ancient woods. Beyond Emery Down the high wood gives 
place to a rolling natural park, clothed with heather, cotton grass, and 
gray whortle bushes, and studded with single trees, or small groups, in 
pairs and triplets, of perfect form. Here is seen that phase of beauty so 
often desired and seldom found, distance in the forest, bounded only by 



i6 "THE NEW FOREST 

a far-ofF misty screen of luxuriant wood. Beyond this open park, the 
imagination is kept in constant excitement and expectation by the 
increasing size and beauty of the trees. Each group seems to surpass 
the Jast, and to mark the ultimate limits of grace and size, until some- 
thing even grander and more stately takes the pride of place. Their 
splendour dominates the mind to the exclusion of all other subjects of 
thought. You become a connoisseur not only in their general beauty 
but in its particular forms. You analyse them into types, grades, and 
permanent varieties, and no longer compare them promiscuously, but 
form standards for the different classes. Some of the finest ancient 
beeches have apparently been pollarded, and so far from this proving a 
disfigurement in their ripe maturity, it gives them a variety of form 
and a spread of limb, which makes a fine contrast with the towering 
domes which top the single stems of the natural tree. Many of the 
pollards seem to come late into leaf, and the effect is particularly fine 
when in spring their ruddy buds surround some other forest giant in 
the full glory of early growth. 

On the left side of the road, some two and a half miles beyond Emery 
Down, there is such a group of immense spreading pollards, above which 
towers the rounded head of an unshrouded tree, capped with a cloud of 
vivid green floating leaf-buds. 

Opposite the beech circle, a low line of alders gives promise of a 
swamp, and the ground descends into a "bottom"; not the squashy 
river of grass usually known by that name in the Surrey coombes, but 
a flat swampy valley of gray and lichen-covered heather and cotton- 
grass, scored and intersected by the manifold windings of a slow, 
dark stream, curling round masses of cattle-gnawed and ivy-strangled 
alders and sallows, heaped and encumbered with soft mounds of black 
and gray mud, studded with little bulbous oak stems, stunted and 
decayed, and shattered by the lightning of the thunder clouds which 
follow the water. The struggle for life against water and lightning 
must also be made heavier by the force of the wind in this valley of 
desolation, for even the tough alders had been uprooted by the gales, 
and lay prostrate in the marsh, with cavernous hollows beneath their 
roots haunted by water-rats and tiny trout. In the most stagnant parts 
white limbs of drowned oaks raise their skeleton arms above the marsh. 



THE NEW FOREST 17 

and the ragged ponies which graze round the margin, test carefully at 
each step the ground in which so many of their companions have sunk 
and perished when weak with winter and famine. 

The colouring of this swampy hollow is in complete contrast to the 
brilliant tints of the sound lawns and high woods. It has only two tones, 
gray and black. Yet even there the finishing touch of nature completes 
the picture. The black stream and alder clumps are fringed and studded 
with golden marsh marigolds, and over the gray mud creeps an exquisite 
little plant with five-lobed leaves and gray starry flowers like silver stone- 
crop. A low ridge of better soil divides this slow rivulet of the swamp 
from the bright waters of a typical New Forest stream, the Lymington 
river. On its banks the solemn beeches once more cluster, and the 
hurrying stream goes dancing through the wood golden clear with topaz 
lights, past the lines of columned trees, slipping from pool to pool with 
little impatient rushes, resting a moment in the deeper pools, then climb- 
ing the pebble beds which bar them in, and hurrying down to the sea, 
at Lymington Haven. 

This river, like that at Beaulieu, belongs wholly to the forest. 
Here it is a mere brook, with exquisitely rounded banks of turf and 
moss, as if the wood fairies who put the acorn and beech nuts to bed 
for the winter had tucked in the coverlet on either side and then 
embroidered it with flowers. The pools are full of enormous "boatmen" 
which lurk under the banks and dart out at every leaf, insect or 
stick which comes floating down the stream. Each morsel is seized, 
pulled about and examined by the creatures, like a company of 
custom-house officers at a port, and as a steady rain of debris from the 
trees descends upon the stream throughout the day they are kept busy 
from dawn till dusk. Even so near its source this stream sometimes 
overflows its banks. In one spot the whole of the surface roots of a 
beech have been pared clear of soil as if by a trowel. It is not a large 
tree, but the spread of root is fifteen paces across. 

West of the river the ancient trees once more close in towards the 
road, and beyond them on either side are younger woods planted by the 
Crown. Very few young trees appear in this part of the old forest, but 
on the right hand of the path is a beautiful example of tree protecting 
tree from the destroying cattle. A most ancient crab-tree, hoary with 

B 



1 8 THE NEW FOREST 

lichen and green with ivy, has thrown its protecting arms round the stem 
of a fine young oak. The smooth clean stem now shoots up clear of the 
old crabtree, whose delicate pink blossom mixed with the black ivy 
berries, shows that it is vigorous still in spite of its double burden of 
carrying the ivy and caring for the oak. 

An example of the astonishing detail and completeness of the natural 
beauties of the forest, beauty presented on a scale so large, that the 
absence of detail and ornament might well pass unobserved, may be 
seen round the stem of every great tree that fronts the road. Take for 
instance the base of the beech column which stands opposite to the grass 
track that leads to the left to the charcoal burner's hut below Mark Ash. 
It is the base of a compound column, thicker than the piers of Durham 
Cathedral, with seven projecting pilasters. The bark is like gray frosted 
silver, crusted in parts with a scale ornament of lichen, and in the 
interstices between the pillars with short golden-brown moss. The 
rounded niches which encircle its base are laid out as natural gardens ; 
which in April of the present year were planted and arranged as follows. 
In one a violet bed, covered with blossoms which touched the bark of 
the trunk. In the next a briar-rose, a foot high in young leaf. In the 
third three curling fronds of bracken fern. In the fourth a moss-grown 
billet of sere wood, and a pile of last year's beech mast. In the fifth a 
young woodbine, which had slipped into the inmost crevice between 
the sheltering pilasters, and was already adorned with little whorls of 
green leaves. In the sixth a wood sorrel, with trefoils of exquisite green- 
like chrysoprase, and in the seventh niche four seedling hollies, a tiny 
rowan tree, and a seedling beech as high as a pencil. The whole was 
encircled by a close carpet of moss turf, and the tUhris of leaves. The 
eye sees these minor beauties in series and succession ; but no mere 
catalogue can convey an adequate idea of the delight and satisfaction 
afforded to the mind by this prodigal abundance of natural ornament. 

The cries of the woodland birds, which hitherto had hardly broken the 
silence of the forest, showed that the attractions of cover, food, and water 
must be combined in a measure not yet encountered in the adjacent 
glades. The bright sun poured between the green leaves and reached the 
dark hollows among the pines below, and the wood rang with the cries of 
the larger and rarer birds which have here their haunt. The hooting and 



THE NEW FOREST 



19 



yelping of the owls, though it was noon-day, was almost like the inter- 
mittent cry of hounds that have strayed from the pack, and are hunting 
some solitary deer. The laughing of the woodpecker, the harsh and 
angry screams of the jays, the crow of the cock pheasant, and the cuckoo's 
call, showed that animal life, hitherto so scarce in this wealth of arboreal 
growth was here abundant and in evidence. The only trace of man's 
presence was the rudest and most primitive dwelling known to civilized 




Charcoal Burner's Hut, Bolderzvood. 



life. In the centre of a clearing, surrounded on three sides by a towering 
ring of monster beeches, was a deserted charcoal burner's hut, with the 
"burning circle" in front of the door. Except for the setting of good 
English trees it might pass for part of the kraal of some race of wood- 
land dwarfs, with its " zeriba " in front. The last is a large circle of 
brushwood, supported by posts and rails of rough oak-poles. Within 
was a flooring of black ashes, neatly raked into a raised ring at a few feet 
from the circumference. 

B 2 



20 THE NEW FOREST 

The hut looks like a white ants' hill covered with scales of turf 
turned grass inwards, with a kind of mushroom cup on the apex. The 
only sign that the dwelling was not constructed by savages is the square 
door and porch, hewn of roughly squared oak. A glimpse of the interior 
shows that the framework is a cope of strong oak poles, and the only 
furniture a couple of sacks of dry beech leaves, a low wooden bench, and 
one or two iron pots. A similar hut in Gritnam wood is inhabited 
throughout the year by an adder-hunter. He does not even indulge in 
the luxury of a beech leaf mattress or a wooden door ; but lives in health 
and comfort with a low oak bench for his bed, and a faggot of heather 
for curtain and door. 

A narrow glen and stream, with an ascent bare of trees forms a kind 
of precinct, before the last and inmost circle of the wood, where the 
neophyte may pause, and see revealed before him, the final and crowning 
secret of the forest. The voices of Dodona's doves echo softly throbbing 
from the grove, and invite him " to touch, to see, to enter " and be from 
henceforth one of the initiated. On either side the enormous beeches rise, 
some tossing their branches like the arms of Blake's angels, sweeping sky- 
ward with uplifted hands, others with huge limbs flung supine on the 
turf, others like slender pillars from which spring fretted vaults and 
arches, trees male and female, trees of architecture, and trees of life, rising 
in measured order and gradual succession on the sides of a theatre of 
woodland turf. Where the solemn aisles diverge they are walled with 
holly, roofed with the green of the beech, and floored with flesh colour 
and gold, as the broken lights glitter on the carpet of moss and wind- 
sown leaves. Half of a clustered beech had fallen in one shock to the 
ground, smashing into ruin the tall hollies below it, and scattering their 
broken limbs m a yet wider circle of destruction. The scent of beech 
and holly from the crushed and broken fragments overpowered all the 
odours of the forest. Deer had been browsing on the fallen boughs, and 
three fallow bucks sprang up from behind the ruin and rushed through 
the hollies beyond. Nine fallen limbs, each a tree itself in size and 
proportions, lay spread upon the ground like the fingers of a fan. The 
coating of moss with which it was completely covered made it easy to 
walk up over the limbs to the point of fracture and thence look down 
into the forest. In front lay beds of young holly glittering in the sun, the 



THE NEW FOREST 21 

ground between them covered with the vivid green of wood-sorrel. 
Beyond, and around, on every side the towering forms of the gigantic 
tree? stand clear, each behind each in ordered ranks without movement 
or sound in the still air, except for the cooing of the ring-doves and the 
screams of the wood-owls moving in the forest. It is a temple without 
walls, with a thousand pillars and a thousand gates, aisles innumerable 
and arches multiplex, so lofty, so light, so ancient and so fair that it seems 
the work not of natural growth but of some enchantment, which has 
raised it in the forest far from the home of man, unpeopled, untrodden 
and alone. 

Such is the ancient wood of Mark Ash, in itself, its setting and 
surroundings. It may be doubted whether elsewhere in England is to be 
found another to excel it or equal it in the completeness of its beauty, 
and in the strange perfection of the growth, not only of its trees, but of 
its turf, its flowers and its lawns, to which the will of man has not 
contributed the laying of a sod or the setting of a daisy. 



CHAPTER II 

THE CENTRAL FOREST {continued) 

The forest heaths — Beaulieu a?id Ober Heath contrasted — Fleming's th:orns — Matiey Heath 
and Bog —Flight of the woodcocks at dusk up Matley Passage — • Denn"^ Bog by tzcilight — 
Alum Green and the Roman Arch — The Knightwood oak — Heronry in Finney Ridge — 
Toung herons ; buzzards ; the adder-hunter- — Brockenhurst — Night in the forest. 

The sense of freedom and limitless distance which always accompanies 
a forest walk is never more complete than when the traveller emerges 
from roaming in the great woods or thick plantations and finds himself 
on one of the wide heaths which stretch for miles beside the woodlands, 
and are themselves surrounded by distant lines of forest beyond which 
lie heaths, and yet more forest far away down to the shores of the Solent. 
Beaulieu Heath is perhaps the finest of the open stretches of forest 
scenery. There is something so new, fresh and exhilarating in the sudden 
presentation of this apparently unlimited stretch of high open level 
ground, swept by the volume of the over-sea wind that comes rolling up 
from the Channel, which reacts on the mind with a kind of intoxication 
of space and air. Miles of whispering pines are the background to the heath : 
beyond all is open, level and free, the ground falling imperceptibly till the 
near horizon is nothing but a level line of heather, below which the inter- 
secting waters of the Solent are lost to sight, though the blue hills of the 
Isle of Wight rise like the background of a panorama, far beyond the 
invisible strait which lies between. There are those who prefer the forest 
heaths even to the forest woods. Doubtless each gains by contrast, the 
more so that the change from the high woods to the sweeping moorland, 
is often as sudden as the shifting of a scene upon the stage. 

Take for instance the wide stretch of Ober Heath, which fringes the 







SOT ,i»>.| .("PiV- 



THE NEW FOREST 23 

great plantations of Rhinefield Walk, and runs almost down to 
Brockenhurst from the modern castle which has been built upon the site 
of the keeper's lodge at Rhinefield. The upper portion of the heath is 
like a scene in the Surrey pine districts, studded with self-sown Scotch 
fir, and clothed with gorse bushes, rough heather, and a tiny dwarf 
willow, which creeps upon the ground like ivy, but otherwise is a perfect 
willow bush, studded in spring with tiny satin globes, like the " palms " of 
the common osier, but no larger than shot or tare-seed. Far away across 
the dark purple heather and golden gorse, the quick stream of Ober-water 
runs through a flat green lawn to join the Brockenhurst river just above 
New Park, with the hill of Brockenhurst Manor breaking the sky-line 
to the right. The left side of the heath is fringed by heavy forest ; but 
in this case the transition from heath to wood is broken by a wide scrub 
of dwarf thorns, round as beehives, matted with heather, and knots 
and beards of lichen. Some hundred acres must be covered by 
" Fleming's thorns," as this dense thicket is called. Those who have 
seen both, compare it to the mimosa scrub of the African plains. 
Like the mimosa it is a favourite haunt of game ; and the wild deer 
love to lie in its secluded and impenetrable jungle. 

No fence or boundary marks the transition from heath to forest. 
The river slips from the common, between clumps of holly and single 
waving birches, winds down a glade, and in a few yards is lost to sight 
among masses of oak, alder, ash, and pines. Looking backwards towards 
the sunset along this borderland, the rugged outlines of the gorse and fir, 
and the broken and wind-swept hollies and thorns which fringe the full 
fed forest, give to the scene an air of wildness and confusion in striking 
contrast to the serene tranquillity which reigns within the solemn precints 
of the woods. Ober Heath is an example of the forest moor inclosed by 
wooded hills. On Matley Heath, south of Lyndhurst, the converse may 
be seen ; a barren heather-clad hill rising steadily from low wooded ground 
on either side, and then descending in a long and gentle slope to an immense 
expanse of flat and barren moor. This wild and desolate tract is perhaps 
the largest unbroken stretch of heather and infertility in the whole forest. 
Under the names of Matley Heath, Black Down, Yew-tree Heath, and 
Denny Bog, it stretches east of Lyndhurst in a straight line of five miles 
to the Beaulieu river. Cobbett, who rode across it after having missed 



24 THE NEW FOREST 

his way, and hated heaths because they would not grow his pet swede 
turnips, calls it " about six miles of heath even worse than Bagshot 
Heath ; as barren as it is possible for land to be." From Lyndhurst the 
road gradually ascends, the soil all the way growing thinner and poorer, 
until the bare gravel shows in white patches and plains among the starved 
heather. Yet on the right, and at no great distance are thick woods of 
the finest timber in England, and even on the crest of the hill, a fine 
rounded wood of beech and oak, Matley Wood, stands up like a fertile 
island, with a sea of heather and bog round it. To the left lies the great 
stretch of Matley Bog, and to the right a narrow strip of hard sand where 
the road creeps round the head of the morass. Here is a picture which, 
but for the road and bridge cannot have changed for a thousand years. 
A stream flows down from a wide valley in the thick woods, and spreads 
itself among green marshes, sedge, and alder copses, at the top of the bog, 
whose level and impassable plain loses itself in the black heath which 
stretches far beyond the railway into the southern forest. At dusk, 
the woodcocks, which rest in the forest, come flying up from the bog to 
the woods. On the last day of April of the present year, at a quarter 
before eight, the woodcocks were already on the wing. Night was set- 
tling down on the heath, but the horizon was still light above the hill, 
and tall clouds were passing across the west. A sound came from 
the bog, like the twittering of swallows on the wing, mixed with low 
croaking cries. Then a bird with steady flight like that of a curlew 
on the mud-flats came up out of the dusk, and crossed the road, uttering 
its curious call at regular intervals, and making straight for the head of 
the woodland glen. This was followed by a pair, which, after crossing 
the road flew tilting at one another, and turning and twisting in the air 
all round the semi-circle of lofty trees which crown the hollow in the 
woods. Bird after bird then flew up from the bog, until the forest glen 
was full of their dusky forms twisting and twining, like swallows or fern 
owls, against the evening sky. 

Next day a young woodcock was brought into Lyndhurst ; it had 
been caught in the wood close to the Lyndhurst race-course, the rest 
of the brood were seen hiding close by, with their heads laid upon the 
ground and bodies motionless like young plover, while the parent 
bird flew round, and endeavoured to decoy the lad who found them 




^ 

cq 



26 "THE NEW FOREST 

from the spot. This young bird was a most beautiful creature, no 
longer covered with down, but fully fledged to all ^appearance, and 
adorned with the beautiful brown mottling which makes the wood- 
cock's plumage one of the most perfect pieces of tone-ornament in 
nature. As the night creeps on, blurring every minor feature of the 
scene, and leaving only the faint gleam of waters and the black forms of 
the alder clumps from distance to distance in the bog, the cry of the 
wild-fowl, echoed by the dark wall of forest at the back, shows that 
all the natives of the marsh are awake and moving. The croak of the 
woodcocks, the calling and screaming of the plovers, the bleating of the 
snipe, and the harsh barking of the herons, winging their way from 
Vinney Ridge to the Beaulieu river, fill the air with sound, though the 
creatures themselves are invisible; while from the forest the yelping and 
screeching of the owls, the incessant drone of the " churr worms," and the 
whirr of the great wood-beetles, answers the calls from the open moor. 
At such times the stranger will do well to seek the road and return 
across the heath ; for once entangled in the great woods which lie 
southward of the marsh, he may well be lost till morning. In the angle 
between this mass of forest and the railway, lies Denny Bog, a more 
distant and even more picturesque portion of this irreclaimable waste. 
The words bog, marsh and swamp are often used indifferently. Properly 
understood they apply to widely difl^erent conditions. 

A bog is a portion of ground lying in soak. In the forest they are 
found of all sizes, from the area of a dining-room table to that of Hyde 
Park. The rim of the bog is hard enough to prevent the escape of 
the water except by gradual soakage, and thus the service is level. Yet 
the beauty of the bogs is known and appreciated by every " forester," 
though they are a fruitful source of disaster to riders who do not 
know how they often lurk under the very shadow of the timber at 
the edge of the sound land of the woods. There is a tiny bog on the 
edge of Gritnam Wood which may serve as an example. On the verge 
of the common which lies below the wood is a pretty little circle of 
golden moss, with patches of green grass, and pools of black water no 
larger than a man's hand. Towards the centre the colouring is as bril- 
liant as that of sea- weeds and sea-anemones seen in sunlit water. The 
mosses grow into spongv pillows, with exquisite feathery fronds. Some 



THE NEW FOREST 27 

of this moss is rose-pink ; other kinds brilliant green, or tawny brown, 
and from the whole comes a scent like that of fern roots. A man may 
walk across in safety, but a horse breaks through the spongy surface, and 
nearly always falls, throwing its rider in the process, for the sucking 
mosses prevent any effort at recovering its footing after the first stumble. 

Herons, like the monks of old, seem always to choose a picturesque 
site for their home. Their home in the wooded hills of Wytham, look- 
ing far far across the flats of the upper Thames valley, or in the tall 
pines of Woolmer Forest, near the Deer's Hut common, in the steep 
cliffs of the Findhorn river, and last, but not least beautiful, the heronry 
in the thick plantation at the head of the Penn Ponds in Richmond Park, 
where the London herons build almost unknown to the thousands of 
visitors who skate upon the lakes in winter, or ride and drive past them 
in summer, are each the chosen spots in their own beautiful vicinity. 
The heronry on Vinney Ridge, about four miles from Lyndhurst, is no 
exception to the rule, and the path to it leads through some of the 
finest woodland scenery. Part lies along an ancient Roman road, 
which runs over the summit of Lyndhurst Hill. 

From this the view ranges far to south, west, and east, while at its 
foot lies Alum Green, perhaps the largest and most beautiful of all the 
forest lawns. It is a kind of natural " savannah " in the woods. The 
extent of sound turf covers many acres, dotted with park-like groups of 
trees, surrounded on all sides with a ring of ancient timber on sloping 
banks. It is the favourite resort of all the ponies and cattle in this 
part of the Forest. The ancient path joins the main road to Christchurch, 
near the Lymington stream, about a mile below the bridge which crosses 
it on the way to Mark Ash. Here also is a bridge, of a single arch of 
brick. The stream comes hurrying down to this through the open 
forest. Three tributaries have already swelled its waters between this 
and the upper crossing-place, and river and banks alike are deeper and 
even lovelier than before. The broken banks are planted, wreathed, and 
fringed by every kind of forest flower, shrub, and fern, of the largest 
and most luxuriant growth. Anemones, cuckoo-flowers, violets, king- 
cups, young bracken, and hard-fern, woodbine and wild rose, heart's- 
tongue, and moss like lengths of velvet cover the banks, the beech- 
boughs arch the stream, and on each side the open wood extends to the 



28 rHE NEW FOREST 

utmost limit of sight. The otters make this part of the river their 
summer home. Two young ones were recently dug out from the earth 
a short way below the " Gate House," which stands near the bridge, and 
during the day they frequently lie up, either in the dry forest near, or 
under the roots of a big tree by the banks. The habits of the New 
Forest otters on this stream seem very well known to those who are 
interested either in hunting or observing them. They travel a long way 
down the river at night, perhaps past Brockenhurst and as far as 
Boldre, or even below to near Lymington. They then hunt the stream 
upwards in the early morning until they reach the narrow waters, where 
they stay during the day. The pack of otter-hounds, which generally 
visits the forest in the early summer, usually meet at Brockenhurst or 
some other point down stream and pick up the fresh " drag " of the 
otters, which have returned up stream in the early hours of the morning. 
Hunted deer also make for the water at this point, and endeavour to 
throw off the pack before seeking refuge in the thick recesses of Knight- 
wood and Vinney Ridge. A fallow buck finds the dimensions of the 
stream quite adequate for the temporary destruction of scent. Slipping 
down some tributary brooklet it will pick its way down to a pool, and 
then, gently sinking, until nothing but head and horns remain above 
water, lies as motionless as a squatted hare listening to the shouts, talk- 
ing, casting, and excitement on either bank, until refreshed and invigor- 
ated it springs once more to the bank and leads its pursuers another 
circle through the woods and bogs of the forest. 

North of the road, a little beyond the " Roman Arch," as tradition 
calls this bridge, is the inclosure of Knight wood. This large wood, 
though in part replanted in 1867, contains many remnants of ancient 
forest embedded in the new timber, among other the celebrated Knight- 
wood Oak. Thus it shows in juxtaposition both the artificial and 
natural modes of reproducing forest. On the edges of the wood are 
close plantations of Scotch fir, in formal rows, which shelter and direct 
the upward growth of the young oaks between. In the centre, where 
old trees have died and been removed, or have in past time cleared a 
space which their present height leaves free to light and air, young oaks, 
birches, and beeches are growing in irregular masses and of all heights 
and sizes. Among this confused multitude is the great Knightwood Oak 




K?iightzvood Oak, Mark Ash. 



30 THE NEW FOREST 

This forest king stands in a smooth round lawn, all other trees keep- 
ing their distance beyond the outermost circle of its branches. The 
main trunk of the oak rises like a smooth round Norman pillar, and at 
no great height breaks into eight limbs which radiate from it like the 
sticks of a fan, in very straight and regular lines. The extremities of 
these show signs of decay, but the tree seems as firm as ever. Its rigidity 
is such that in a heavy gale, though the tops of the branches move, the 
mass of the tree seems as stiff as if cast in iron. The limbs, though 
untouched by decay, are coated nearly to the summit by thick green 
moss, and the effect of this symmetrical mass of timber springing from a 
trunk of such magnitude — its girth is 19^ feet — is beyond description 
dignified and imposing. The tallest beeches in the forest are probably 
those in which the herons build in the Vinney Ridge inclosure, on the 
opposite side of the Christ Church Road from Knightwood. The wood 
lies on the top of a fine saddle-back hill, covered with trees of every 
kind, except elm, and of all ages, from old ivy-bound oaks to immense 
beeches and thorn-bushes wreathed with woodbine. There is a far 
greater extent of open turf here than in most " inclosures," and when 
the fences are removed in 1899, which is the date fixed for its 
disenclosure, it will take its place as a natural part of the ancient 
forest. 

The beeches in which the herons build are so lofty as to lift their 
summits above the natural angle of sight, even as the head is 
usually carried in the forest ; if it were not for the glimpses of the 
great birds silently launching themselves from the tree-tops before 
their disturber has approached the nest, the existence of the colony would 
not be suspected. It was the flight of a single heron slipping noiselessly 
from the nest, and soaring back in a wide circle to watch over the brood, 
that first indicated to the present writer that he was in the heronry. 
Even then the height of the trees, their distance apart, and the thickness 
of the foliage at the top made the discovery of the nest no easy task, 
had not the clattering noise made by the young indicated their where- 
abouts. The presence of birds of prey, though usually screened from 
sight by the thickness of the forest, was well illustrated by an incident 
which took place after the momentary flight of the old herons. A 
sparrow-hawk dashed up through the wood, and poising itself above the 




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vv^MP*^ 


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32 rHE NEW FOREST 

trees, flew from nest to nest, looking down into them from a height of a 
few feet, and apparently expecting to find a brood small enough for one 
to be carried off before the old birds returned. The hawk's visit only 
lasted for a minute, for at that moment five old herons came sweeping 
over the wood, and remained soaring in hurried and anxious flight far 
above the tops of the loftiest trees. When we retired to some distance 
and stood still by a timber stack, bird after bird pitched on the trees, and 
after one or two subdued croaks of greeting, flapped down into the nest. 
The eyries appear absolutely inaccessible, built, as they are, at heights of 
from seventy to ninety feet from the ground on trees which rise two- 
thirds of that height without a single branch. Yet they are climbed, 
otherwise the inquiry as to whether you " could do with some young 
herons " — or young " cranes," for both names are used in the forest — 
would not be addressed to those who are known to have a taste for 
keeping odd pets so often as it is. 

There are a few ancient inhabitants who still know the favourite 
nesting places, not only of the herons, but of rarer birds, such as 
the common and honey-buzzard. The forest is said to be the last 
breeding place of the honey-buzzard left in England, and there is no 
reason, in the present condition of the woodlands, why either of these 
birds should forsake the district, except in the prices offered for their 
eggs by "oologists." The keepers protect a nest when found, and as the 
honey-buzzard does not lay till summer is well advanced, there is more 
chance of its nest escaping observation than for those of the early- 
building birds. 

The strangest survival of any industry connected with the taking of 
wild animals in the forest is that of the " Adder-hunter," probably the 
very last representative in England of a race who for upwards of two 
centuries have contributed their strange nostrum of adder's fat to the 
pharmacopoeias of central and western Europe. The last of the Adder- 
hunters is a strikingly handsome man, probably past his sixtieth year, short, 
with curling beard and hair, and equipped in what is probably a unique 
costume for his peculiar trade. Thick boots and gaiters protect him 
from the chance of a bite from the snakes. He is slung all over with 
bags of sacking, his pockets are stuffed with tins and boxes, and from his 
chest hangs a pair of long steel forceps. In his hand he carries a light 



rHE NEW FOREST 



zz 



stick with a ferrule, into which when he rouses a snake he puts in a 
short forked piece of hazel wood, and, darting it forward with unerring 




The Adder-Catcker. 



aim, pins the adder to the ground. Stooping down he picks it up lightly 
with the forceps, and after holding the writhing creature up for a 
moment, in which he looks like a rustic ^sculapius, he transfers it to his 

c 



34 I'HE NEW FOREST 

sack, Mr. Mills, or " Brusher," as he is known among his friends, is a well- 
known and popular character in the forest, and his services in keeping 
down the number of adders are considerable. From March to September 
he ranges the forest, and his largest "bag" was i6o adders in a month. 
These he boils down, and prepares from their flesh the " adder's fat," 
which he sells. Its virtues have been known for so many centuries, and 
the favour with which extremely penetrating unguents, such as lanoline, 
made from the fat of sheep's wool, are now regarded, justifies the reputa- 
tion it enjoys. The belief that it is a remedy for the bite of the snake 
itself may rest on slender grounds. But for the odd list of accidents 
given by the old man — " sprains, black eyes, poisoning with brass, bites 
by rats and horses, rheumatic joints, and sore feet in men and dogs," it 
is admitted by the general consent of the forest to be a sovereign balm. 
In winter the Adder-hunter's occupation is gone, but he has other modes 
of making a livelihood, and his lodging throughout the year is in the 
woods, in the snug interior of a charcoal-burner's hut. 

Brockenhurst, unlike Lyndhurst, which, with all its picturesque 
features, bears itself like a little town, is a true village, imbedded in 
the forest. Here the ground is stiff clayey loam, suitable for the 
growth of oaks, and consequently for corn and arable land. The 
square fields, with hedgerows, which fringe the village give an uneasy 
sense of limit and confinement after the free and open woodlands. 
But the cultivated land is a mere patch, lost to sight and memory 
in a few minutes' walk from the village. The church stands apart 
on a little hill, a perfect forest shrine, ringed by a double circle of 
oaks, between which lie the graves, sprinkled with primroses that have 
crept out from the wood, and spread their flowers shyly on the church- 
yard turf. Like the new church of Lyndhurst, the building stands upon 
a green mount, A giant yew, sound and vigorous, with a solid stem 
eighteen feet in girth, overshadows the red-brick tower, and reaches 
halfway up the spire. In front of this tree stand the dead fragments 
of an oak. The age of this ruin of a tree is almost beyond conjecture, 
but its position gives some clue to its date. Part of one branch survives. 
This limb, which appears to be some six feet in diameter, must have 
passed across the space on which the greater part of the yew now stands, 
at a height of thirteen feet from the ground. Thus when the ancient 













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36 



THE NEIV FOREST 



yew was a mere shrub, not so high as the great limb of the oak, the latter 
must have attained its full dimensions ; for the yew is a tree of perfect 
growth, straight, upright, and unmarred by crowding or shade, which 
must have been the case had it grown up when the oak-bough was large 
enough to overshadow it. The shell of the oak measures twenty-five feet 







\ 



Bridge near Brockenhnrst. 



round ; and the centuries of the growth of the yew must be the measure 
of the decline and fall of this primeval oak. 

At dusk, when the heavy clouds descend and brood in long lines 
across the woods, with bars of pale white sky below, the scene between 
Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst is singularly wild and pleasing. The white 
and waning light in the west is broken by the sharp outlines of the 
rugged firs, and reflected in pale sheets in the swampy pools which 
line the river. The woods are studded with clumps of holly, whose 



THE NEW FOREST 37 

opaque black outline contrasts with the gnarled and twisted limbs of 
the ancient pollarded oaks native to this stiff and vigorous soil. As 
the dusk creeps on the night-sounds of the forest are more distinctly 
heard. The splashing of the ponies' feet as they crop the grass of the 
swamps, the neighing of the forest mares as they call their foals, and the 
distant tinkle of the cattle-bells, sound through the trees, and shadowy 
forms of deer canter across the rides. Voices of children, calling or 
crying in the deep wood, are among the startling and unexpected sounds 
of night in the forest. More than once the writer has left the track and 
hastened into the grove, only to see the fire of a gipsy camp, with 
the children and parents lying at the mouth of their tent, lighted and 
warmed by the glow of their beech-wood fire. The smell of the woods 
on a still night, when dew is falling, is the essence of a thousand years 
distilling in the soil of this virgin forest. It baffles description ; suffice 
it to say, as Herodotus did of Arabia Felix, " from this country comes 
an odour, wondrous sweet." Nor are true perfumes wanting, where 
wafts of the scent of sweetbriar come across the path, or an unseen bed 
of hyacinths fringes the road. 



CHAPTER III 

THE WILD DEER AND FOREST PONIES 

Unique character of hujit'mg i?i the '■'■High Woods'''' — Survival of the zvild deer — A spring 
meet at New Parlc — Rousing deer zvith tufters — Old Moonstone — Laying on the 
pack — Full cry in the forest — Number of deer killed — -The forest ponies — Their 
importance to the Commoners — Arab blood — Their feral habits — Improvefnent and 
fnaintenance of the breed — The Pony Shozv at Lyndhurst. 

The forest was created as a hunting-ground, and such it still 
remains. The fox is regularly hunted, and the otter-hounds visit 
Brockenhurst in spring. But the beasts of the chase peculiar to the 
district are the wild red and fallow deer, which are hunted amid 
settings and surroundings absolutely unique in England. 

Their continued existence is one instance in many of the natural 
survival of what is appropriate to the forest. When the deer were 
over-preserved by the Crown, their presence led to endless ill-will and 
demoralisation. From 7,000 to 8,000 head are said to have lived 
within and about the boundaries of the forest at the end of the last 
century. Such a stock was far larger than the natural resources of the 
ground could maintain. In the winter they were partly fed by hay 
grown for them at New Park, Even so they frequently starved in 
hard weather, and it is said that in the winter of 1787 three hundred 
were found dead in one walk. The reaction from this over-preservation 
went almost as far in the opposite direction. The " Deer Removal Act " 
M'as passed in 1851. The greater number were taken in the "toils" 
— high nets still kept in most deer parks — and most of the rest were 
shot down by sportsmen. But they have survived all efforts at their 



THE NEW FOREST 39 

destruction, and their increase in the thick and quiet plantations is now 
steadily maintained. 

Towards the close of the season, late in April, a day with the New 
Forest deerhounds presents from meet to finish a series of pictures of 
sylvan sport, in the full glory of the English spring, each of which might 
be illustrated from the plays of Shakespeare and the old ballad poetry of 
England. Take for example the scene at a meet late in April of the 
present year, under the tall oaks at New Park. Three men, born and 
bred in the forest, sons of woodmen, dressed in brown velveteen, tlT,ick 
boots, and gaiters, were leaning against the oaks. Each wore across his 
shoulders long thongs of leather, with loops and swivels of steel, working 
examples of those mysterious ornaments of white and gold with which 
the Master of the Oueen's Buckhounds is girded as he leads the royal 
procession on the Cup day at Ascot. These are the " couples," for 
holding the pack, until the time comes to lay them on upon the scent of 
the deer, which the " tufters " have driven from cover. Three or four 
red-scarved, black-muzzled forest gipsies strolled up and formed a group 
under another oak, little dark active laughing orientals, a strange contrast 
to the sturdy foresters. The old adder-catcher next joined the party ; he 
had hunted the forest as he came, and flung down upon the ground from 
his wallet a pair of writhing snakes. The " kennels " are good customers 
for his adder's fat, as it is believed not only to be useful to reduce sprains 
and injuries in horse and hound, but also as a remedy against the adder 
poison should a hound be bitten in the forest. A gipsy family followed, 
ragged, unkempt, " happy as birds and hard as nails," as a forester described 
them, taking the meet on their most leisurely way to Brockenhurst. An 
old woman, the present patriarch of the forest gipsies, led the way, in a 
cloak of enormous squares ot scarlet and black, which covered the basket 
she carried like a tent, and a poke-bonnet. Another younger woman, in 
a true " witches' hat " with elf locks hanging from below, and a tribe of 
most ragged children, sockless, shoeless, some pushing a little cart in 
which lay their tents, others straying and returning like little wild 
animals, were amusing themselves by imitating a pack of hounds in full 
cry. Soon the pack appeared, with huntsman and whips in coats of 
Lincoln green, and couples across their breasts, and though the hounds 



40 THE NEJV FOREST 

are no longer like those which Theseus bid the forester " uncouple in the 
western valley," 

" With ears that sweep away the morning dew, 
Crook-kneed and dewlapped like Thcssalian bulls 
Slow in pursuit," 

they are still " matched in mouth like bells," and their greater speed and 
symmetry does not detract from the pleasure of listening in the forest to 

" The musical confusion 
Of hounds and echo in conjunction," 

which the hero proposed to Queen Hippolyta. A sharp-faced man 
*' lunging " a forest pony, and one or two mounted woodmen and keepers, 
completed the party, until the " field " cast up rapidly, the master in 
Lincoln green, the rest in quiet blacks and browns. The hounds were 
then divided by the whips into groups, and the couples fastened, each 
thong being linked to a pair of hounds. Thus one man has to hold from 
three to six couple, and that picturesque poise of men stepping backwards 
with arms extended and dragging reluctant hounds which has been 
painter's and sculptor's subject for centuries is reproduced in perfection. 
One ancient and sagacious hound, by name Moonstone, was omitted from 
the coupling process. Satisfied that for it the honour was reserved of 
finding and separating the deer, it trotted alone at the heels of the hunts- 
man's horse, with an air of sagacity and importance most edifying to 
behold. After " secret consults " with one or two woodmen, who had 
marked deers in the early morning, the huntsman led the way through 
thick and beautiful plantations, the coupled hounds and the field following 
in long procession. On every side the wood rang with the spring notes 
of birds, the laugh of the woodpecker, the cry of the cuckoo, while starry 
beds of violet and primrose, and everywhere the sight and scent of leaves 
and flowers, made an unusual and beautiful setting to the animated 
groups of riders, horses, and .'hounds. 

The pack and field halted in a rough common deep in heather and 
furze, shut in on three sides by plantations, and on the fourth by the 
ancient timber of Gritnam wood. The huntsman and a mounted 
keeper, with the old " tufter " Moonstone, then trotted into a large 



THE NEW FOREST 41 

enclosure on the farther side. " Come on, old dog ! " called the hunts- 
man, as the hound stopped to feather on either side of the beautiful 
green ride up which the two men were trotting. The keeper pulled up 
his cob, and pointed to a clump of beeches surrounded by low brambles 
and thorns, remarking, "There were three bucks there this morning." 
The hound, which had been casting from side to side of the walk and 
through the cover, now bounded towards the beeches, and with a crash 
three bucks sprang to their feet, and rushed through the wood, followed 
by the loud and musical baying of the hound. The deer did not break 
at once, and there was time to join the groups in the common and watch 
the dispersion of the inhabitants of the plantation, as the hound twisted 
and turned after the bucks. A big fox stepped out, and a doe crossed, 
eliciting a chorus of impatient whimpers from the pack before whose eyes 
it passed. Then the three bucks crossed the open, followed by the single 
hound, whose deep voice was heard for many minutes as he drove them 
through the next covert. A blast on the horn now gave the signal that 
the deer had separated, and half a dozen willing hands led the coupled 
hounds to the ancient wood in which they were to be laid upon the scent. 
The long line of men and hounds, followed by the well-mounted field, 
hurried along through the long narrow glades of a most beautiful and 
ancient wood of oaks, or under arcades of crab-blossoms, ragged gipsies, 
brown-coated foresters, hounds and riders, all gradually hurrying on till 
the whole cavalcade was pushing at a trot through the forest. A pretty 
little black-eyed boy was leading old Moonstone (literally by a string). 
" I likes deer-hunting, though 'tis a cruel sport, for the deer does us no 
harm," he remarked sententiously, as the procession grouped itselt round 
the huntsman, who was sitting alert and eager on his horse in a green ride 
at the highest point of the wood, where the single buck had crossed. 
All the hounds were now eager and happy, with heads up, sterns waving. 
In a few moments they were uncoupled, and dashed down through the 
wood. If the scene was not a reproduction of Tudor or Plantagenet 
days, the picture of the early poets is sadly misread. Hounds, all black, 
white, and tan, spread fanlike across the forest, flinging to right and left, 
each giving tongue as it owned the scent ; master, huntsman, and whips 
in Lincoln green, under the lights and branching canopy of most ancient 
beeches ; well-mounted and well-dressed riders, in the costume, sober in 



42 THE NEW FOREST 

colours, sound in texture, which good taste and good sense have elaborated 
into the perfection of simplicity, now seen, now lost, as they gallop down 
the glades, among the tall gray pillars of the beech-trunks, and the gossamer 
green of little thorns, and bushes of ivy and wild rose. Surely some 
such scene as this must have been in the mind of the author of the 
Allegro^ when he bids the reader 

" At his window bid good morrow, 
Through the sweetbriar, or the vine, 
Or the twisted eglantine. 

" Oft listening how the hounds and horn 
Cheerly rouse the slumbering morn, 
From the side of some hoar hill. 
Through the high wood echoing shrill." 

A favourite device of a hunted stag in the New Forest is to make 
for the wood in which other deer are lying, and disturb them, carrying 
the trail right over their " forms." The difficulty of keeping hounds 
together when so composed in a thick extensive plantation is very great, 
and it often happens that, while the main body of the pack keep to the 
scent of the hunted deer, small parties of hounds, or even a single hound, 
break off and enjoy a hunt on their own account. It is on record that on 
one occasion the pack separated into three, each of which division killed 
a deer. One doe was hunted and killed by three hounds only, who were 
found eating the carcass. The single efforts of a staghound which is 
driving a deer are often extremely interesting, as an example of the per- 
severance, skill, and instinct combined possessed by the modern breed. On 
the day the opening of which has been described, a stray hound hunted a 
buck for a full hour without driving it from one large plantation, giving 
tongue at intervals, and sticking to the scent without the encouragement 
either of its own companion or of a single rider. At last, a fine fallow 
buck, which had not yet shed its horns, broke from the enclosure, and 
cantered lightly across the open common, ringing twice or thrice round 
clumps of bushes, and lying down for a few minutes to cool itself, though 
apparently not at all distressed, in a boggy pool. It then leapt a fence 
into a plantation. The hound then made its exit from the wood, and 
took up the scent at a swinging gallop, giving tongue loudly at first, but 



THE NEW FOREST 43 

soon becoming silent as it reached the scene of the buck's circle round 
the bushes. At least ten minutes were required to unravel these 
difficulties ; but the check did not in the least abate the keenness of the 
hound, who brought the line up to the wood, and then with a fine burst 
of " music " dashed into the wood, and there pursued its solitary hunt. 

Stag-hunting in the forest begins in August, and the meets are held 
through September, November, December, January, March, April, and 
part of May, thus covering a considerable period when fox-hunting has 
either ceased or not begun. Probably the late spring hunting is the most 
novel and picturesque experience which a day with the New Forest stag- 
hounds affords. But to those who enjoy the sight of hounds working, and 
at the same time have a taste for beautiful scenery, nothing could well be 
more delightful. Last season, sixty days' sport averaged about the same 
number of deer killed. Blank days are unknown, and^ there is the 
certainty of a run and of a day's enjoyment. 

The New Forest ponies are one of the most interesting features both 
of the landscape and the life of this wild country. Now that the deer 
are so few as to have disappeared from common view, they are replaced 
on the heaths, the lawns, the bogs, and among the ancient trees by the 
many-coloured, wild-looking forms of these almost feral ponies. There 
is scarcely any portion of the forest — the inmost recesses of Mark Ash 
woods, the sea-girt heaths of Beaulieu, the sodden rim of Matley Bog, 
or the smooth lawns of Alum Green, of Stonycross, or Brockenhurst — 
from which the ponies are absent. There is no solitude in which their 
quiet movements, as they tread with careful steps cropping the scanty 
herbage, do not break the stillness by day and night, no bare hillside so 
barren but the ponies can find on it some humble plant to crop between 
the stones. 

The brood mares of the forest are perhaps the nearest approach to 
the wild horse now existing in this country, so far as their life and 
habits entitle them to the name. Many of these have run for twenty 
years in the heaths and woods, unbroken, unshod, and almost without 
experience of the halter except when " pounded " by the " agisters " for 
occasional marking. Their graceful walk and elegant shape, their 
sagacity and hardihood, their speed and endurance, and, not least, the 
independence and prosperity which their possession confers on the com- 



44 "THE NEW forest: 

moners and borderers who live in and around the forest, give to these 
ponies an interest apart from that attached to the life of any other breed 
of domesticated animal in this country. Nearly all the work done else- 
where by large horses seems to be performed in and around the forest 
by these miniature ponies, drawing miniature carts. Singly, or driven 
tandem-fashion, they draw bricks, haul loads of brushwood and poles, 
trot almost any distance to markets and fairs in carts and gigs, and will 
carry a heavy forester safely and well 

"Over hill, over dale. 
Through bush, through briar," 

without fatigue or stumble. There is something in the fact of owning 
horses — be they only ponies — which seems to raise a man in his own 
esteem, and the jolly foresters have an air and demeanour, whether 
standing in front of their mud-built cottages, or riding across the heaths 
to drive in their various stock, which belongs of right to the equestrian 
order of mankind. 

" The love of pony breeding," writes Mr. W. Moens, of Tweed, 
near Boldre, one of the most energetic founders of the Association for 
the Improvement of the Breed of New Forest Ponies, in his pamphlet 
on the subject, " lies deep in the breasts of most commoners, not only on 
account of its somewhat speculative nature, but for the animals them- 
selves. The ponies running in the forest are rarely left for long without 
being looked after to see how they are doing, or at least being inquired 
after by their owners, of those living near or working in the forest. 
Even the very children of borderers know to whom the mares and foals 
belong, so that the forest ponies afford much amusement to the forest 
folk, and nothing more easily excites them than a rumour that something 
or other is about to be done that may injure their interests as regards 
their pony stock. Some of the large breeders own as many as one 
hundred or more ponies, many forty or fifty, the smaller occupiers own 
as many as they can keep in the winter season. These, according to the 
fancy of the owners, are distributed in various parts of the forest, where 
they are marked by the agisters, or marksmen, by cutting the hairs of 
the tails in various ways. Thus the ponies haunting each quarter of the 
forest are known, the agister comparing his own marks with those made 
by the owner, and with his description of his ponies. Should any ponies 



46 "THE NEW FOREST 

stray into the parks, other pastures, or the lanes around the forest, 
information given to one of the ag-isters causes it to be soon known 
to whom the straying ponies, which go by the name of ' lane-haunters,' 
belong." 

The present system of identification has taken the place of a far more 
picturesque and exciting method of marking the stock, the " Drift of the 
Forest." This custom was a survival of an Act of Henry VIII., which 
ordained that all forests and chases were to be driven yearly within 
fifteen days after Michaelmas, and if any mares or fillies were found which 
were not likely to bear good foals " the same unprofitable beasts were to 
be killed and buried." Long after this drastic command had ceased to 
be regarded, the " Drift " was maintained, as a kind of census for the 
marking of all forest stock. As nearly as possible on the same day, 
keepers, agisters, and owners rode out to drive the different walks of the 
forest towards the pounds. These were not necessarily railed enclosures. 
The forest hardly contained a fence in the old days, and where, round the 
few villages, the roads were bordered by fences, the space between was 
ingeniously used as a trap. At Brockenhurst, for instance, the foals, 
ponies, cattle, calves, and donkeys were forced towards the lane which, 
with its high hedges, runs by the side of Brockenhurst Manor towards 
Beaulieu. Once past the manor mill, by the Boldre River, the gate across 
the road was shut, and the long lane was filled from end to end with a 
promiscuous throng of wild and tame beasts, thrusting, neighing, bellow- 
ing, and crowding, like the spoils of Amalek. From ten to twenty men 
would join in the work of collecting the animals from the open forest. 
This needed both skill and knowledge to perform properly. The wilder 
ponies, who had unpleasant recollections of branding and other rough 
handling in the pounds, would often make a determined effort to break 
back, taking their way at speed through the most difficult and treacherous 
ground. There too, as in the runs of New South Wales, the animals 
which have been ridden in the business before seemed to take a pleasure in 
aiding to secure the wild ones, and the most successful means to bring in 
a fugitive was often for the rider to sit still, and leave the pony he rode 
to choose its own line, and the time for making the last push which 
turned the other back to the herd. 

The history of these New Forest ponies is by no means ascertained. 



THE NEW FOREST 47 

They are not an indigenous animal like the red deer, but the uniformity 
in size and appearance suggests a common stock and ancestry. The first 
is, however, probably due to the almost feral state in which these ponies 
live in the wild district, from which their food-supply is entirely obtained. 
No pony above a certain size is likely to survive in the forest, for the 
simple reason that it cannot find food to maintain it. In winter, by 
browsing all day and the greater part of the night, hardy little 
" foresters " of from twelve to thirteen hands high can just make both 
ends meet, though they are extremely thin and ragged. But anything 
much above that size would need artificial support, and its progeny 
would deteriorate. On the other hand, their size does not tend to fall 
much below the standard at which Nature sets the limit, which, in the 
case of the New Forest pony, seems to be from twelve to thirteen and a 
half hands. The natural appetite and needs of these hardy creatures 
prompt them to do the best for themselves from day to day with a 
constancy hardly to be understood by human beings whose minds are not 
concentrated by necessity on the absorbing effort to satisfy the hourly 
cravings of hunger. Nature levels up as it levels down, and this is 
probably the clue to the uniformity in size of all wild animals, as well as 
of these half-wild ponies. 

The condition of this stability is of course that man interferes no- 
where. But the practice of selecting and selling away from the forest 
all the best of the ponies did threaten a marked deterioration in the stock 
about ten years ago, not only in size but in quality. Now the " quality " 
of the ponies is obvious and unmistakable. They have none of that 
lumpiness and want of due proportion so often seen in ponies ; on the 
contrary, they are far more like miniature horses, and horses with a strain 
of Arab blood in them, as their fine eye, small heads, and high quarters 
show. Whatever the origin of the ponies in the past, this high-bred 
appearance has a history, and a very interesting one. They are of the 
blood of Eclipse, or rather of his sire, supplemented in later years by 
Arab strains of historical excellence. 

The story of the Arab strain in these ponies is mixed up with one 
of the earliest romances of the modern thoroughbred. The Duke of 
Cumberland, son of George II., who in his later years became Ranger of 
the New Forest, exchanged an Arabian horse for a Yorkshire thorough- 



48 rHE NEW FOREST 

bred, which he called Mask, after the place from which it came. 
Mask was descended from the Darley Arab, brought from Aleppo in 
the time of Queen Anne, and from the Byerly Turk, thus possessing 
a pedigree going back to the days of Charles I. Mask was, however, sold 
for a small sum at the death of the Duke, and remained for some years in 
the neighbourhood of the New Forest, where he became the sire of num- 
bers of forest ponies, and also of the celebrated Eclipse. Recently the 
Queen sent to the forest two thoroughbred Arabs — Abegan and Yirassan 
— the former a gift of the Imaum of Muscat. Lastly, in 1891, the 
Association for the Improvement of the Breed of New Forest Ponies was 
founded at Lyndhurst, which holds an annual show of pony sires, and 
grants premiums to such as come up to the standard required, on con- 
dition that they are allowed to run in the forest. This pony show is 
one of the prettiest sights of the forest year. It is held annually at the 
end of April, just as the leaves are appearing on the beeches and thorns, 
not in some formal show-yard in a town, but on a lovely lawn outside 
Lyndhurst, called Swan Green. 

The beauty of this little sylvan theatre has already been described as 
the first scene in the forest which presents itself on the way to Mark 
Ash from Lyndhurst town. The scene at the spring pony show in the 
present year was a busy contrast to the ordinary quiet of the little green. 
In these country gatherings the puzzle is to know where the people come 
from and how they get there. It had been pouring with rain all the 
morning, and the grove beyond the green was dripping with sunlit 
showers of drops. Yet a large part of the forest population seemed to 
be present. Under an oak on the hillside a white pony, saddled but 
riderless, was cropping the leaves from a thorn-bush, in company with 
four or five sooty, ragged, wet, long-tailed colts, dragged in from the 
forest. Smart well-groomed pony stallions were showing off their 
paces on the road on either side. In the centre a ring of about an acre 
had been enclosed with hurdles, within which were the ponies, their 
owners, or leaders, and the judges ; and around, in the e very-day dress 
of working life, the men and boys of the forest. " Wild ponies and 
wild people " was the remark of a bystander. But the roughness of the 
forester only extends to costume ; his manners are nearly always pre- 
possessing, and his conversation, on topics in which like that of pony- 



THE NEW FOREST 49 

breeding, he is an authority, is as brisk and epigrammatic as that of a 
farmer in the Yorkshire dales. Smart people in breeches and gaiters, old 
foresters with faces rugged as their oaks, short black-eyed " gippos " pry- 
ing and peeping between the broad shoulders of the native race, and all 
the school children of Lyndhurst, were grouped round the ring. Within 
it, the ponies were being led round in procession before the judges, who, 
notebook in hand, were marking the merits and defects of each. A curly- 
headed sweep headed the troop, carrying, instead of a whip, his soot-brush, 
with which he occasionally whacked his handsome rough pony, a piece 
of "effect," which had evidently been carefully thought out beforehand. 
Most of their ponies had spent the whole of the last trying season in the 
forest, and showed evident signs of the privations they had undergone. 
Many had their rough coats still almost unshed. This produces a curious 
effect, for though the forest ponies are of all known colours, the masses 
of unkempt, shaggy winter coat, which cling to them, are of colours quite 
unknown to the eye which only sees groomed horses, or those which have 
been out at grass for a few months in a meadow. All sorts of shades of 
soot-colour, sand-colour, dusty brown, smoky gray, lie in rags and tatters 
on their flanks, colours which alter again when, as in the present case, the 
mop-like mass is drenched with wet, or drying in the sun. Yet the 
quality of the race shows in the fine head, and large eye, and above all, 
when they begin to move. Unshod, and untrained, they step with all the 
careless freedom of a race-horse, giving that curious impression of moving 
in detail, which the shuffling jog of a coarse bred pony never creates. 
The contrast between the animals towed in by halters, with the mud of 
the bog still clinging to their flanks, and their civilised relations " in 
service," is perhaps the most striking feature of the show. But the con- 
dition in which the true forest pony appears after his winter in the open, 
is an excellent guide to the size, points and quality necessary for combining 
the maximum of speed and strength, with the power to endure the hard 
life in which they are born and bred ; and the judges seem to grasp the 
"true inwardness" of each pony's merits through any depth of matted 
hair and mud, and in spite of any want of flesh between hide and bones. 
The privations of the last season fell heavily on all grazing stock, 
whether semi-wild, or kept upon the farms. Yet it was remarked that 
ponies left to run wild in the forest did better during the long drought 

D 



so THE NEW FOREST 

than those which were " taken up " and put nito pastures on inclosed 
land. They got into the recesses of the bogs and swamps, and there 
found more food and better, than was available on the burnt-up meadows 
of the farms. These ponies must in fact be judged in the first place from 
their power to exist as wild animals : the other qualities follow. 

The old saying that "a good horse is never a bad colour," seems 
true of these " Foresters." In the endless circle moving round the ring, 
there was as much difference in the colour of the animals as in the 
appearance of the men and boys who led, hauled, or: pushed them round. 
On the whole blacks and roans seemed the most numerous. Of seventy 
animals in the ring at one time, thirty were either roans, grays or blacks. 
As for the two-year-olds, wild little fellows fresh from the forest, awkward, 
reluctant, shaggy, and " pixie-ridden " to the last degree, their colours 
were so obscured by long hair and wet, that blacks, browns, and bays 
seemed all shrouded in a dingy earth colour. But all walked with freedom 
and grace, and most would probably have fetched from £j to ^12 as 
they stood. It is said that the yearlings if removed to the good pastures 
of Sussex, Dorset, or Somerset, will grow a hand taller than their dams. 

It must not be supposed, from the rough and poor condition of these 
creatures when seen in April, after exposure to the long hard winter, that 
their life is uniformly one of privation and hardship. The health and 
freedom which they enjoy together make them on the whole a very happy 
and contented race. During the summer each sire collects his little troop 
of mares, and so far as possible keeps them from the approach of any 
rival. In the spring when the foals are born, there are {tvv prettier sights 
than the little mares and their young, which they then bring into the 
most sheltered and beautiful lawns near that part of the forest which they 
haunt. Later in the year, when the sun is hot and the midge and forest 
fly — perhaps the greatest pest to horses which exists in England, begin to 
worry them in the thick cover and low ground, ponies and cattle alike 
leave the low ground at about 9 a.m., and until the afternoon frequent 
the "shades" or open ground where they stand close together half 
asleep, swishing off the flies with their long tails. The accurate observer, 
whose work has been quoted previously, thinks that these shades are 
chosen according to the prevailing wind, " sometimes being chosen in the 
full sun, where the summer breeze is better felt than in the surrounding 



THE NEW FOREST 51 

bottoms ; at other times they will stand in a favourite part of some 
forest stream, or in a drift away over the railway. Blackdown is a 
favourite shade, being a ridge surrounded by bottoms, where there is 
plenty of good feed in the driest summers, with abundance of food and 
water. This district is perhaps the most favoured of any, being haunted 
by over 600 ponies and cattle, or more than one-tenth of the whole stock 
run in the forest." This was the district which it was proposed to take 
as a military rifle range, a proposal which was successfully resisted largely 
on the ground that the ponies would thus lose their favourite summer 
haunt. 



CHAPTER IV 



THE NORTHERN FOREST 



Stony Cross — Riifus Stone and the Rufus Legend — A brief for the prosecution of Sir Walter 
Tyrrell — The viezu from Stony-Cross Plain — Bramshazv Wood—Malwood — Minstead 
and its park. 

The great ridge of Stony-Cross Plain divides the northern from the 

central forest. Along it runs the ancient road from Winchester to 

Ringwood, and thence to the port of Poole. From its summit the 

whole of the forest, north, south, and east, is seen in endless waves of 

woods ; and in the deep glen below its eastern shoulder is the spot where 

Rufus was killed by the arrow of Sir Walter Tyrrell on the evening of 

the second of August, a.d. iioo. In the monkish stories the death of 

Rufus became a text, not for the vengeance which comes on the despoiler 

of the poor, as in the case of the death of the Conqueror's other 

children on the scene of their father's oppressions, but of the vengeance 

of God upon the robber of the Church. The fate of the brutal scoffer 

who mocked at the holy saints, who kept abbeys without their abbots, 

sees without their bishops, and the very throne of Canterbury itself 

vacant for three years while he fattened on the incomes of the servants 

of God, is the theme of ecclesiastical story. It was almost inevitable that 

this colour should be put on the sudden death of the spoiler by zealous 

Churchmen. Those who see in the denunciations of the Church, and 

in the prophecies of an impending requital which were in circulation 

up to the day of Rufus's death, a motive, which alters the part of 

Tyrrell from the unconscious instrument to the secret emissary of 

vengeance, will find some curious circumstantial evidence in an examina- 



THE NEW FOREST 53 

tion of the spot in which the king's body was found, assuming that 
that now marked as the place where Rufus fell is rightly identified. 
There is good reason for thinking that in spite of the lapse of time, 
tradition in this respect is right. The place is close to Mai wood, where 
the king was lodging the night before, and had dined and drunk on the 
very day of his death. 

Malwood has for centuries, probably from the days of Rufus, been 
the residence of men whose business has been to know and visit every part 
of the forest in that particular "walk." Those in the house at the time 
of the king's death must have had knowledge of the spot where the 
body was found. Even if Purkiss, the charcoal-burner, who drove it in 
his cart to Winchester, did not mention to the other foresters the scene 
of so dreadful a discovery, it is almost certain that after the dispersion of 
the party at the lodge, the flight of Tyrrell, and the desperate ride of 
Henry to Winchester, in order to seize the succession to the Crown with 
the blessings of the Church, which had banned his brother, the domestics 
must have stolen down the hill to look at the body where it lay. The 
death of princes, even if not followed by the appearance of the caladrus, 
the ill-omened bird, which, according to the monkish bestiaries, only 
appeared on earth to bring news of the death of kings, must always be 
a topic of awe and curiosity to those near the scene, even if fear closes 
their mouths and prevents them from paying due reverence to the body. 
The murder of Absalom the beautiful in the wood of Ephraim was 
known to more than the " captains of the host," though they dissembled 
all knowledge of the deed. The descendants of the charcoal-burner, 
who carried the body to Winchester, enjoyed for centuries the rights given 
them as a reward, among others tbat of taking all such wood as they 
could gather " by hook or by crook," dead branches, that is, which have 
not yet fallen, but might be broken off, though not lopped by axe or 
bill. Thus the evidence as to the exact place of the king's death does 
not depend on history, or upon general tradition. It is fixed by a 
concurrent and very coherent though independent set of circumstances. 
In the first place by the fact which we have glanced at, that by the fixed 
and unchanging order of the forest there have lived in continued succes- 
sion, within ten minutes' ride of the place, persons employed for eight 
hundred years to traverse daily that particular part of the forest, Malwood 



54 "THE NEW FOREST 

Walk, in the exercise of the same duty, the supervision of the deer and 
the wood, men to whom by the very nature of their business every tree, 
rivulet, and pool is a familiar object, frequently associated with some 
fact, far less important, such as the death of an eagle, or the leap of a 
deer, which is a part of the ordinary knowledge of the wood transmitted 
from one generation of foresters to the next. Secondly, the spot ori- 
ginally marked by an oak tree, was again marked by a stone, set up by 
Lord Delaware, then warden of the forest, in 1745, which stone was 
afterwards cased in iron in 1841. If the tree which in 1745 was in such 
a state of decay that its place was taken by the stone, was the same which 
was standing at the time of Rufus's death, it must have been more than 
650 years old at the time of its total disappearance — not an impossible age 
by any means, for the fragment in Brockenhurst churchyard probably 
stood there quite as early, and Gilpin speaks of " a few venerable oaks in 
the New Forest that chronicle upon their furrowed trunks ages before the 
Conquest." But the tree may have been a shoot, or sapling or seedling, 
of the original oak, and still have identified the spot, just as the present 
" Cadenham oak," which buds at Christmas, marks the site of the 
old tree. 

Taking these considerations as adequate to maintain the truth of 
tradition as to the exact spot at which the king died, the inferences from 
an examination of the ground are as follows. The king was shot, not in 
the wood, but at the very edge, almost at the last tree. Immediately 
west of " Rufus Stone " the good soil stops, and a very poor, steep, 
marshy, slope begins, which runs right up to the top of the hill by Stony 
Cross. Wood does not grow on it now, and never could have grown, 
for the nature of the soil has not changed, and remains in the 
same condition for the growth or non-growth of timber, as in the 
days of the Conquest. Again, the legend says that the king was 
looking after a wounded deer, " shading his eyes with his hand." 
Now he would not have needed to shade his eyes had he been in the 
thick forest, though as the deer would naturally run out of the wood 
across the open, and the sun was in the west, for it was late on an 
August day, the account exactly fits the supposition that William was 
standing where he is said to have stood and gazing after the wounded 
deer, as it ran out across the Stony-Cross Common, when he received 




~^ 






THE NEW FOREST 55 

the fatal arrow, William, then, was in the open, or on the very edge of 
the wood. That he should have been shot by accident in such a place, 
with a weapon like a bow, seems most improbable. Moreover it is 
likely that both he and Tyrrell were waiting for deer to be driven to 
them. The place is still a natural pass for deer, and the " Rufus " Stone 
stands on the neck of a little bluff, on either side of which driven deer 
would naturally pass on their way up the valley, and up which they do 
pass now when hunted. Supposing Rufus to have turned and shot one, 
his back or side would be presented to the man who was guarding the 
other pass below the knoll. On the other hand it was a place which 
gave admirable opportunities for the escape of an assassin. Just above, 
or over Stony-Cross Plain ran the sound road, along the high open 
ridges, straight across the north of the forest, not to Lymington or 
Beaulieu, which would probably be ports friendly to the king whose 
property the forest was, but across the Avon, out of the reach of 
summary forest law, down to Poole, whence ships were constantly 
passing over the Channel for Normandy. The course which Tyrrell is 
said to have taken fits exactly with the theory that he committed the 
murder here, with the intention of instant flight by this convenient 
road. The story runs that he rode to the Avon at the spot still called 
Tyrrell's Ford, and, there after forcing the smith to shoe his horse 
with the shoes reversed, killed the man, that he might not betray him. 
A yearly fine paid by the owners of the house where he crossed at what is 
still called Tyrrell's ford, is said to record the memory of the passage. 
Whether this legend be true in detail or not, it seems agreed that Tyrrell 
did escape from Poole to Normandy, and that there, after giving to Abbot 
Suger his account of the king's death in which he claimed that it was 
accidental, took the unusual step — for a man with a guiltless conscience 
— of making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in performing which he died. 

The view from the height of Stony Cross Plain, which was the scene 
of Tyrrell's Ride, gives perhaps the best idea of the extent of the forest 
and its relation to the splendid country which surrounds it. Along the 
back of the ridge, on the high firm ground, the ancient road runs from 
Cadenham, where it is joined by the main roads from Winchester and 
Southampton, straight across the forest, to Ringwood. This northern 
ridge is almost the highest land in the forest. Beyond it, far to the 



S6 THE NEPF FOREST 

south, the whole district falls away to the Solent, beyond which the hills 
of the Isle of Wight are distinctly seen. This " prospect " of the forest 
has nothing of the chess-board appearance, usual in extensive views in 
southern England. Right away to the sea-shore the eye sees nothing but 
woods, commons, and heaths, not in squares and patches, but in a succes- 
sion of long ridges which seem to run out from right to left from a 
shoulder of higher land to the west. Lyndhurst spire shoots up in the 
centre, Minstead, Bolderwood, Rhinefield, Wilverly, and Christchurch 
bound it on the west. Eastward, the eye ranges across Southampton 
Water to the long line of woods, and faintly seen white houses near 
Netley Abbey, and the old fortress of Calshot Castle, Thus the whole 
southern forest is within sight, with its natural and ancient boundaries of 
the Avon Valley, Southampton Water, and the Solent. 

Looking backwards, north and north-east, the Wiltshire Downs are 
seen, and to the right the chalk hills beyond Romsey, abutting on 
Winchester. The two great cities of Wessex, Winchester and Salisbury, 
here have joint claims upon the forest. Timber for the roofing of Salis- 
bury was cut in Bramshaw Wood, where it abuts on Wiltshire, and 
adjacent are the lands of the wardens of Winchester College. Days 
might be spent in gazing on this magnificent panorama, without exhaust- 
ing its beauties. Across the valley to the north, at the deepest point of 
which Rufus met his death, the beautiful beech woods of Eyeworth Walk 
and Bramble Hill are spread on the slope like curly fleeces. As the day 
goes on, the cattle come trooping up from the woods to seek relief from 
the forest flies on the open '-shade" in front of the inn, and the 
air is resonant with the music of their bells. 

Malwood, where stood the house in which Rufus lay the night before 
his death, and where till the present generation, the keeper of Malwood 
Walk had his lodge, is the eastern buttress of this high Stony-Cross 
Ridge. Sir William Vernon Harcourt's beautiful house now stands 
on the site ; long, low, timbered and gabled, it is perhaps the most pleas- 
ing of the many new mansions which now stand on sites leased from the 
Crown on the ground once occupied by the old lodges. Between 
Malwood and Lyndhurst lies the beautiful village and park of Minstead. 
It is difficult to account for the change which the barrier of a paling 
makes in the general aspect of trees and herbage within and without. 



THE NEW FOREST 57 

The park was clearly taken from the forest, yet every blade of grass 
seems different, and every tree has a "domesticated" look. Probably 
this is due to the work of the scythe on the one, and of the inevitable 
tendency to improve on nature in the other. Outside, in the forest, the 
grass has never been mown, and constantly browsed and trampled by 
cattle. The trees have never been lopped, except as the wind tore off 
the rotten branches. Thus the grass of the forest is like a bowling alley 
set with flowers, the grass of the park, the common and cultivated 
verdure of the hayfield. The positive contribution of the park to the 
forest landscape is in the number of trees of species not indigenous to the 
forest, which are properly planted round great houses. Thus at Minstead 
Manor the long drive is fringed by masses of rhododendron twenty feet 
high. Their blaze of red flower on the dark-green background of 
shining leafage, the yellow clusters of azalea, and the few gigantic 
araucarias, which rise from the mass below without a single dead branch, 
make a beautiful incident in the midst of the natural forest. The fine 
mansion, and ancient and picturesque stables and ofiices, the kennels and 
gardens bowered in this mass of exotic shrubbery, with all the evidences 
of ancient and distinguished inhabitation suggest a train of thought 
different from, but not out of harmony with, that which arises in the 
contemplation of the natural woods. 



CHAPTER V 

THE SOUTHERN FOREST AND BEAULIEU 

BeauUeu Abbey and its history — The ruins at St. Leonard's — 77v Solent shore — Cobbetfs 
admiration of the view — Sowley Pond — Wild-fowl — The Beaulieu river and Buckler'' s 
Hard — Nelson's flagship built in the forest^Commoners and squatters — Their houses at 
Hill Top — Forest rights — Pigs and pannage — Szvineherds — Rights of fuel — Future of 
the forest. 

In the purview of the forest the great and ancient domain of 
Beaulieu claims separate and unique consideration. Geographically it is 
the riverine and maritime district of the forest, in which the Abbey of 
Beaulieu itself, at the head of its tidal river, marks the point of connec- 
tion, between the inland portions and the beautiful Solent shore. It was 
part of the original forest of William the Conqueror, and might have 
remained like the rest of the great hunting-ground, a wild and sparsely 
populated region, whose main interest to the modern world is that the 
changes, which make history, have been so little felt that in its present 
condition it hardly invites historical inquiry, because it presents itself 
almost unchanged by centuries, as a fossil fact. 

The act of King John in granting this magnificent domain for the 
support of an abbey of Cistercians, withdrew it at once and for ever from 
the deadening, though conservative, influence of the forest law, and from 
that moment Beaulieu has a separate and dignified history, the human 
interest of which exceeds that of the forest itself. The resources and 
splendour of this domain are such that it has, from the appointment of 
its first abbot until the present time, maintained its position as an 
imperium in imperio through all the tumults of history. It is of vast 
extent, yet the boundaries of the Manor Bank have never been broken or 



THE NEW FOREST 



59 



encroached upon. Backed by the forest and bounded by the sea, fertile 
in corn, in wine — the remains of its terraced vineyards and the house of 
the winepress still survive — and inclosing nearly the whole of a splendid 
tidal river, it could exist as an independent whole, alike in beauty, 
position, and natural resources. Whether in mortmain — the "dead 
hand " of the Church — or in private possession, its resources have been 
consecutively in the power of a single owner, who has enjoyed a prestige 







Jllejcr/ljistecL. 



Bcdulieu Abbey. 



from its possession such as is not conferred by any domain of similar 
extent. The privileges granted to the abbots by King John, and con- 
firmed by charter after charter of his successors, were at least equal to 
those enjoyed by the kings themselves, when the manor was part of their 
forest. The abbey enjoyed every ordinary forest right, and some which 
were exceptional ; the abbots might hunt within the manor and follow 
their game into the forest a bowshot beyond its boundaries ; their hounds 
were excepted from the provisions as to mutilation if found in the forest, 
and to this day the manor shares with only one other, that of Brocken- 



6o THE NEW FOREST 

hurst, the privilege of feeding sheep in the forest. The Prince Abbots of 
Beaulieu sat among the Lords spiritual in Parliament for 200 years, and 
after the confiscation of their estates the prestige of the possession of the 
manor seems never to have failed to confer upon its owners the dignity of a 
peerage, or a step in rank on those who already enjoyed it. In 1538 Sir 
Thomas Wriothesley, Lord High Chancellor, bought the entire manor, 
then worth ^^428 6s. 8d. a year, making, according to Cobbett's estimate, 
/^8,500 of our money, for ^2,000. He was created Earl of Southampton. 
In the reign of William III. Ralph, Lord Montagu, married the heiress of 
the Earl of Southamption, and was created Duke of Montagu. Edward 
Hussey, who married one of the co-heiresses of John Duke of Montagu, 
was created an earl — Earl of Beaulieu. At this time the manor was for 
one life divided, for the other daughter of John Duke of Montagu 
married the Duke George her cousin. She left a daughter, and the 
Earl of Beaulieu dying without children, the estate passed to this 
daughter, who married the Duke of Buccleuch. The great-grandson of 
that Duke, Lord Henry Scott, became possessor of Beaulieu, and was 
created Baron Montagu in 1887. Thus the possession of Beaulieu seems 
to carry with it a patent of nobility as well as the enjoyment of one of 
the most beautiful estates in England. 

The history of the abbey is perhaps as good an example as can be 
found of the magnificence, method, and good sense with which these great 
foundations were projected, developed, and maintained. The story which 
attributes the original grant to a fit of superstitious remorse, may or 
may not be founded on fact ; if it is, the subsequent record, of the use 
made of the gift is in strange contrast to its inception. The tale is that 
the king summoned the abbots of the white-robed Cistercians to meet 
him at Lincoln, and that enraged at their hostility to himself, he ordered 
them to be trampled to death by wild horses. His soldiers refused to 
become executioners, and the abbots fied. Next morning the king 
confided to his confessor that he had dreamt during the night that he had 
been brought up for judgment before St. Peter, who had handed him 
over to the abbots to be beaten, and that he was still aching from the 
blows. The confessor induced him to apologise to the abbots, and to 
make reparation by founding an abbey of Cistercians at Beaulieu. 

There is no need of this legend to account for John's anxiety to have 



rHE NEW FOREST 6i 

at least one body of powerful and well-affected ecclesiastics on his side. 
From the time of this great gift the Cistercians remained loyal to the 
king, even against the orders of the Pope himself ; and even during the 
interdict, when the whole realm lay under the Papal ban, as the result 
of John's quarrel with Rome, these English Cistercians celebrated 
Divine service at the command of their abbots, for which they were 
excommunicated by Innocent III, The king restored to them their 
lands which had been seized on account of the interdict, and at the fourth 
Lateran council held at Rome in the year 121 5, at which were present 312 
bishops, and more than 200 abbots and priors, the abbot of Beaulieu, 
on behalf of King John, impeached Archbishop Langton of high treason 
for his share in the direction of the barons' revolt. The founding of 
Beaulieu was a piece of policy on the part of the king, the reason for 
which is sufficiently clear by its results. But the magnificence of its 
development was partly due to fortune. The piety of John's son, 
Henry III., enriched it for conscience' sake ; one of his numerous grants 
was that of the profits of three years from his stud of horses in the forest, 
to pay for masses for his father's soul. In his reign the abbey church 
was completed, and the greater part of the buildings in the precinct were 
either projected or begun. The church was as large as that of Romsey ; 
but though the lines of its foundations have been traced, and are kept 
in evidence with the same care which is bestowed on the preservation of 
each and every portion of the ruins, the building itself has disappeared. 
It is hard to conceive a greater shock to religious sentiment than the 
ruthless destruction of this abbey church, while all that was useful for 
secular purposes was retained ; the barns and cellars kept for the storage 
of the wealth which the land still yielded to its new owner, the stones of 
the house of God taken to build Hurst Castle, and the lead of its 
roof to cover the towers of the sister fortress at Calshot, 

The buildings which remain are still among the most beautiful ruins 
of the south, and serve to show the scale on which the abbey was 
conceived; and the wisdom which dictated the choice of its site. They 
lie on a gently sloping meadow, in which the great wall of the precinct 
stands here and there in gray masses, marking the lines of an inclosure a 
mile and a quarter round. The mass of the buildings, the church, the 
cloisters, the abbot's house, the guest house, and last but not least, the 



62 



THE NEW FOREST 



means and appliances which converted into wealth the commodities which 
fed the colony, stood close to the very head of the tidal river. There 
were the mill, the storehouses, and a quay, to which the ships from 
France, Spain and the Hanse towns came as the natural port of what was 
at once an outlet for the trade of the forest, and the seat of a great 
industrial community. Part of this quay is submerged; but part remains 

covered with grass and flowers; and 
this quiet, butterfly-haunted spot is 
still called Cheapside. Opposite and 
abutting on this quay are the ruins 
of the abbey, and the beautiful 
"Palace House," the centre of which 
is the lofty " Gate House " of the 
abbey, while round it the buildings 
of a modern mansion are grouped 
with such skill that the house forms 
a whole as completely adapted to 
its setting and surroundings as the 
abbey itself. Within the great wall 
of the precinct are the refectory, 
now converted into the parish 
church, and the remains of the ex- 
quisite cloister court, of the chapter 
house, and of a huge chamber, still 
in good repair, in which the guests 
of the abbey were housed. This 
last is a good example of the 
simple, large-minded way in which 
the monks set to work to build for 
ordinary purposes. They built two 
gable ends as wide as they had space for, or where space was no object, 
as wide as the forest oaks would give them cross-beams for their roof. 
Then they joined their ends by straight thick walls pierced with windows, 
thick and massive with no need for buttresses or contrivances to eke 
out bad workmanship or save expense. There are several remains of 
their great storehouses, a wine-store, and a gable sixty feet wide at the 







m> 






■w'l-. «& 



) 



^''^iij 






G(Jte House, Beaulieu. 



THE NEW FOREST 



^3 



abbey, and at St. Leonard's, a branch colony nearer to the Solent is 
probably the largest building of its kind existing. In the ruins of the 
abbey there are enough relics of interest to give material for days of 
minute inquiry. 

It is hard to understand why Cobbett, whose eye for scenery, and 
admiration for the great religious foundations destroyed by Henry VIII. , 
might have been expected to make him view with sympathy and apprecia- 
tion, a scene in which two such elements of interest are combined, is 



\Pk. 



i^ '< * mrtimnf ' ' ^•'' '■'■'»•' iff 












I 






Beaulieu. 



rather cold in his praises of Beaulieu. "The abbey," he writes in his 
Ride from Lyndhurst to Godalming, "is not situated in a very fine place. 
The situation is low ; the lands above it rather a swamp than otherwise " 
— he must mean the lands higher up the stream, for the slopes above the 
abbey were the ancient site of vineyards, and necessarily dry and sunny — 
*' pretty enough altogether," he continues, "but by no means a fine 
place." Few people will be inclined to assent to this. As a site for the 
colony for which it was chosen Beaulieu is almost perfect. The lake 



64 "THE NEW FOREST 

above and the river below, meadows so rich that the elms grow there to 
a size which rivals the forest oaks, the background of magnificent woods 
which run back for a mile to the crest of the great plain of Beaulieu 
Heath which lies above, give an air of propriety and richness to the 
surroundings of the abbey for which it would be difficult to find a 
parallel elsewhere. The view of the whole, looking up the river, the 
natural approach at a time when the forest was a trackless half-desert 
region, towards the abbey, the bridge, and the little cluster of houses and 
the mill which overhung the dark pool below the river, made it as fine a 
place to look at^ which we take to be the meaning of Beaulieu, as could 
be desired, and one of the most beautiful heads of an estuary which can 
be found in England.^ Cobbett, however, had seen another part of the 
ancient domain of the abbey before spending any time at Beaulieu itself, 
a place which he declared to have impressed him far more favourably. 
Neither Cobbett's conclusions, nor, so far as modern authority goes, his 
archaeology, seems quite consonant with facts. But the accident which 
took him past Beaulieu to the ruins at " St. Leonard's," led incidentally to 
a description of that unrivalled view from the maritime side of the 
monks' domain, which is well worth quoting. " Happening to meet a 
man before I got into the village, I, pointing with my whip across 
towards the abbey said to the man, ' I suppose there is a bridge down 
here to get across to the abbey.' ' That's not the abbey, sir,' says he. 
*The abbey is about four miles further on.' Having chapter and verse 
for it I pushed on towards farmer John Biel's. When I got there I 
really thought at first that this must have been the site of the abbey of 
Beaulieu ; because the name meaning fine place^ this was a thousand times 
finer place than that where the abbey, as I afterwards found, really stood. 
After looking about for some time, I was satisfied that it had not been 
an abbey ; but the place is one of the finest that ever was seen in this 
world. It stands at about half-a-mile distance from the water's edge at 
high-water mark, and at about the middle of the space along the coast 
from Calshot Castle to Lymington Haven. To the right you see Hurst 
Castle and that narrow passage called the Needles : and to the left you see 
Spithead, and all the ships that are sailing or lie anywhere opposite 

^ A good inn, the Montagu Arms, with modern comfort and old prices, must be 
counted among the attractions of Beaulieu. 



tHE NEW FOREST 



65 



Portsmouth. The Isle of Wight is right before you, and you have in 
view at one and the same time, the towns of Yarmouth, Newtown, Cowes, 
and Newport, with all the beautiful fields of the island, lying upon the 
side of a great bank before and going up the ridge of hills in the middle 
of the island. 

" The ruins consist of part of the walls of a building about 200 feet 
long and 40 wide. It has been turned into a barn, in part, and the rest 



U w, 



'>r'^vVN : K,,\ 1 




/ / 







''//■; 









'. o^Z- 



^\ 



JW^stei' _ , / 









V I 

Interior of Beaulieu Church. 



\ \ 



into cattle-sheds. But there is another ruin, which was a church or 
chapel, and stands very near to the farm-house. This little church or 
chapel appears to have been a very beautiful building, A part only of 
its walls are standing, but you see, by what remains of the arches, that 
it was finished in a manner the most elegant and expensive of the day 
in which it was built. Part of the outside of the building is now sur- 
rounded by the farmer's garden. The interior is partly a pig-stye, 
partly a goose-pen." 

E 



66 THE NEJV FOREST 

Cobbett declared these ruins to have been once the hospital of Knights 
of St. John of Jerusalem. Modern authorities say that it was a branch 
establishment of the Beaulieu monks, containing their enormous granary, 
a chapel, and the lodging for the workers of iron at Sowley, and of the 
salt-pits on the shore. Everything remains as it was in Cobbett's time 
except that the last of the race of John Biel has departed from the farm. 
But the beautiful little chapel is no longer a goose-pen, but covered, floor, 
walls, and windows, with a wonderful growth of plants and weeds. It 
abuts on the garden of the farm, a handsome solid old house with low 
comfortable rooms and a row of dormer windows in the roof. Both 
gables of the chapel stand, and the remains of rich niches and carved 
work peep out from the ivy and trailing plants. Flowers blossom all 
over these walls, roses, cranesbill, yellow barberry in masses, bramble- 
blossoms, odd garden herbs, fennel and rue, yellow mustard, honesty, 
and beds of " burrs " and pink nettle. It is a perfect sun-trap, and the 
black ivy-berries are as big as currants and in bunches so heavy they 
hang their heads. But the remains of the enormous barn are the great 
sight of the place. It is far larger than Cobbett says. The present 
writer makes it 80 paces long and 25 wide. The gable ends are colossal, 
built up without window or buttress. Apparently the task of providing 
a new roof to cover this huge and high-pitched span was beyond the 
powers of later generations, so the front wall was moved back many paces 
and a narrower and meaner building fitted within the old one. The 
stock-doves fly out of the crevices in these huge gables as if out of a 
clifi\ Every buttress on the side walls is " trimmed " with golden fringes 
of hard fern, and the ivy stems on the eastern end resemble the knots in 
ship's cables. 

All the way down through the manor towards the south the ground 
falls gradually lower and lower, divided pretty equally between woods 
and arable land, with fine farm-houses, the view of the blue Solent 
opens out in the way Cobbett describes. Bei/e Vue rather than 
Beaulieu would be an appropriate name, the former being proper 
rather to the place you look from than the place you look at. The 
coast of the forest is here so sheltered by the screen of the Isle 
of Wight hills that it is not till within half a mile of the shore, beyond 
the ruins at St. Leonard's, that the tops of the oaks begin to incline in 



THE NEIV FOREST 67 

one direction, the certain sign of sea breezes. The cultivated fields run 
down almost to the beach, and partridges may be seen feeding in the 
growing corn within a stone's throw of the breakers. Seen across the 
narrow waters, the line of the island stretches back eastward beyond the 
line of sight, and the visitor might imagine himself on the shores of the 
Hellespont, separated only from another continent by the narrow strip of 
dissociable ocean, guarded like the entrance to the Propontis by castles 
and fortresses, where the parapets and battlements of Hurst break the 







T/:e Edge of the Forest near L'^mington. 

line of sky, and the series of batteries old and new line the opposite 
coast with signs and tokens that here also are set the gates of empire. 
The long low sweep of shore which runs from the sandspit at the mouth 
of the Beaulieu river to the point at which it begins to be silted up by 
the mud deposits of the Lymington river, is fronted by shingle, and 
crossed by innumerable groins of oak trunks driven deep into the ground. 
Between these the shore slopes up to a green bank, which makes a 
beautiful turf drive within a few yards of the sea, backed by hedges as 
green and luxuriant as any on the manor, and fields of growing crops. 
It is not difficult to picture the "joy in harvest " of those whose lot it is 

E 2 



68 THE NEW FOREST 

to cut and reap the corn by this lovely inland sea, where a man may 
leave binding the sheaves, or the mowers rest at midday, and cross the 
fence to where the waves come tumblino- in before the fresh breeze 
blowing in from the Needles and the island fortress of Hurst. Further 
to the south the shore rises with low cliffs, and the shrubs and flowers of 
the mainland creep quite down among the shingle ; bramble, and haw- 
thorn, grow among the gray and colourless plants of the seashore, and 
among the sea-thistles and horned poppies, tiny flowers of wild rose 
blossom, so low that their petals look like little pink shells lying 
amongst the pebbles. 

Lymington, the ancient port of the Royal Forest, as Beaulieu was of 
the Abbey Estates, lies further west. Its long well-built street runs at 
right angles to the head of the ancient harbour, at the top of the great 
mud-silted lagoon which joins it to the Solent. Below the steep hill on 
which stands the town are the old quays, building slips, and wharves, so 
close that the masts of the vessels seem to rise among the apple-trees of 
the gardens. In the meadows near the harbour's mouth are quaint old 
docks and the remains of what were once elegant pavilions and boat 
houses. But the sea trade of Lymington has passed to Southampton, 
and its seaside visitors have deserted it for the Bournemouth sands. 

The change from coast to inland scenery, which a few minutes' 
walk may show, is among the strangest features of a visit to 
the forest shore. A journey of a few hundred yards along the 
channel of a little rushing stream, brings the visitor before a fine 
inland lake, sheltered on nearly every side by woods, and with 
deep fringes of sedge and reeds ; a perfect paradise for wild-fowl. 
In the winter this lake is the great resort of the duck, teal, and 
widgeon, which haunt the waters of the Solent, and come here for rest and 
quiet during the day, or in rough inclement weather. Beaulieu is 
almost unrivalled as a resort of wild-fowl. In hard weather wild swans 
haunt the quiet river, and geese, widgeon, and duck of all kinds are found 
in numbers, which recall the days of Colonel Hawker, the " father of 
wild-fowling," whose exploits on the Solent in pursuit of his favourite 
sport formed one of the earliest and best of British books on wild life. 
The flamingo which was shot on the river, and is now stufi^ed at Palace 
House, was clearly a wild bird ; its delicate white and pink feathers are 




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111 M L^ 



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/ n.illli^ 11, in 



70 



THE NEW FOREST 



in perfect condition, free from any break or soiling, which is the certain 
mark of captivity in wild-fowl. Ospreys visit the river to feed on the 
mullet, trout, and salmon peel ; and on the heaths beyond black-game 
are still found. It is said that these are gradually decreasing all over the 
forest, partly from the number of foxes, partly owing to the ravages of 
the oologists. 




A Creek on the Beaulieu River. 



As for the Beaulieu river, there is nothing like it in England. 
or rather like that part which begins at Beaulieu bridge, and 
falls into the Solent nine miles below. All the waters of those 
forest streams, those marshes, bogs, and swamps which you have 
crossed, leaped over, or sunk into in exploring the northern forest, are 
at last choked into a wide mere, which would be called a " broad " 
in Norfolk, by the narrowing of the valley and some ancient engineering 



THE NEW FOREST 71 

devices of the monks, and then, through a weir opposite the gate 
of the Palace, the fresh water from the forest above pours into 
the salt-water river below. Thus above the bridge are water-lilies, 
below it seaweed ; and from that point a beautiful broad salt river, rapid 
and sinuous, sweeps through oak woods, and meadows starred with 
flowers like the meads above Oxford at Rosamond's Bower, yet never 
quite foregoes that dignity which it borrows from the sea, whose 
doubled tides advance to fill it not twice, but four times in the twenty- 
four hours. Here then is a tidal river in which " low water " is but 
only a change for an hour or two in the landscape, a river whose 
bed shows only yellow gravel, or little sheets of saltings crowded by 
feeding birds, and backed by woods, where the banks are disfigured by 
no towing path or foul factories, and whose silent waters are broken not 
by steam-tugs and barges, but by fleets of shining swans. Little winding 
creeks run up into the woods, bordered by close-set rows of dark oak 
piles, and roofed by the clustered trees, creeks in which you might expect 
to find the "keel" of some prying Dane docked, while its blue-eyed 
crew crept up through the woods to spy out the land, or the hidden 
piraguas of the sea pirates who plundered Panama. Nor is this a mere 
fanciful suggestion from the scenery. War and opportunity lead 
to much the same results, whatever the date; and here in 1704 
Beaulieu Palace, nine miles up an English river, was fortified by John, 
Duke of Montagu, with a moat, walls and towers against the possible 
attack of French privateers,^ a precaution which seems less strange 
than it might, in the light of the plunder of the Earl of Seafield's 
plate by Paul Jones, as to which a curious correspondence recently 
appeared in the newspapers. 

The woods which run for miles along the river banks are perhaps 
equally ancient with the oldest in the forest — ancient that is as having 
always been wooded ground. But their character is wholly difl^erent. 
They are the woods of a manor, grown for profit, carefully tended, and 
full of the close and beautiful "sous bois," or underwood, which in the 
forest has disappeared, and left only the " haut bois," or timber trees. 

1 Others account for the moat and turrets round Palace House by the taste tor 
French architecture acquired by the duke in his residence abroad. Part ot the woods 
were also laid out on the French system. 



72 



THE NEW FOREST 



The woods on the opposite bank have that " carded " look, Hke curly 
hair combed, which sea-breezes give to trees as well as to sailors' locks ; 
but except for this and the cries of the lapwings and the redshanks in 
the rushy meadow below there is nothing in the view which opens on 
leaving the wood to suggest that the water in front is anything but 
an inland lake. It winds between the hills exactly like a branch of 
Virginia Water. On the low ridge to the left is a square built village of 




BeauUeu River at Buckler's Hard. 



good old red brick, brown tiled houses ; not so much a village indeed as a 
street, running at right angles to the river, and looking like a section of 
old Portsea cut away and set down in the woods. And that is exactly 
what it is ; a fragment of the great arsenal, left high and dry by time on 
the shores of the Beaulieu river. Here, on the green slope where the 
cattle feed and children play, was built of Nev/ Forest oak, Nelson's ship 
the Agamemnon., 64, the ship which he was commanding when he lost his 



THE NEW FOREST 73 

right eye at the siege of Calvi, the ship which carried his flag in the 
battle of the Baltic, one of whose crew, at the battle of St. Vincent, 
tucked under his arm the swords of the Spanish officers as if gathering 
sticks for a faggot. Those whose boding fancy foresees a time when no 
sign will be left of the great industries of the North but burnt-out cinder 
heaps, should consider the history of Buckler's Hard. 

In the middle of the last century, John Duke of Montagu, Lord of 
Beaulieu, and owner of the great sugar-island of St. Vincent, and inheritor 
of the rights of the Abbots of Beaulieu to a free harbour upon his river, 
determined to make a seaport at Buckler's Hard. It was a far-sighted 
scheme, in view of the American trade, which posterity has justified by the 
creation of modern Southampton. Grants of land at a nominal rent, and 
of timber delivered free, soon attracted shipbuilders to the spot, and in 
September, 1743, the Surprise^ 24, the first battleship built on the river 
was launched. From that time till the end of the great war, the work 
grew and prospered. Frigates succeeded sloops, and battleships frigates, 
and each vessel after it left the slips, was taken round to be fitted and 
manned at Portsmouth. The Surprise went out to fight the French in 
May, 1750; the Vigilant, 64, 1,374 tons, in 1774; the Hannibal, 74, 
was launched in 18 10. The Agamemnon, after carrying Lord Nelson 
through the battle of the Baltic, and taking her share in Trafalgar, was 
lost in Maldonado Bay in the River Plate in 1809; the Indefatigable, 
the Illustrious, the Swiftsure, line of battle-ships, and a whole fleet of 
frigates were launched at Buckler's Hard during the latter years of the 
war. Such was the skill of the builders and the resources of the place 
that a seventy-four gun ship was not longer than thirty months upon the 
stocks, though 2,000 oaks, 100 tons of wrought iron, and 30 tons of 
copper, were worked into her fabric. The whole of this great industry 
was created and directed by one man, Mr. Henry Adams, who carried it 
on for sixty years, and lived till the age of ninety-two. His sons 
succeeded him; and the ruin of Buckler's Hard was due, not to the failure 
of its resources, but to the deliberate action of the Admiralty. The 
Adamses were commissioned to build four ships at once, and for not 
delivering them by the date agreed on, were ruined by fines and litigation 
at the instance of the Government whom they served. Of their once 
prosperous yard, no sign remains but the houses they built, and four 



74 "THE NEW FOREST 

grass-grown hollows in the shore which were the slipways of the battle- 
ships. In one of these, filled with water at high tide, lies the rotting 
skeleton of a wooden vessel, her stem and stern posts still upright, while 
from her back project the broken and distorted ribs, and bent bolts of 
copper. From a tree in the garden of what once was the home of the 
Adamses, there still waves, as if in mockery, a ragged Union Jack. 

The squatters' houses which fringe the forest, are the subject of much 
amusing legend and odd domestic history. They illustrate the unsettled 
and lawless condition which prevailed in the district towards the end of 
the last century, better, perhaps, than any other feature of the forest. 

A favourite site for their colonies was on the fringe of some great 
estate projecting into the Crown Forest. At Beaulieu, for instance, the 
boundary of the property is called the " Manor Bank." South and east 
of the Abbey it abuts on high flat open heaths ; and there the line of 
division is a bank in the literal sense, a high rampart of earth separating 
the cultivated land and plantations of Beaulieu from the wild and open 
forest. To this bank, the cottages of the commoners and squatters cling 
like swallows' nests to the eaves. It is said that in the old days of en- 
croachments, custom ruled, that if a house were once built, roofed^ and 
a fire lit within, it was not in the power of the Crown to pull it down. 
Occupation, and not architecture, was the object of the squatters, and 
the game of house-building in the forest was soon played with a skill 
born of long practice, which baffled the spasmodic fits of energy on the 
part of the authorities. It reached such a stage of perfection that the art 
of building, roofing, putting in a chimney, and lighting a fire within the 
space of a single winter's night was at last attained ; and the curl of smoke 
rising defiantly in the gray of a December morning was the signal that 
the squatter had triumphed, and that henceforth he was irremovable. 
Some of these little cabins are still used, though more commodious 
dwellings have been added to them. Others stand, or are tumbling 
down, in the gardens of later buildings. Fifty years of settled and 
prosperous occupation have not given them the complacency of the 
humdrum cottage. They never quite lose the hasty, half-defiant look 
which is their birthmark, though their present owners enjoy a degree of 
security, independence, and general goodwill, which their honourable and 
industrious lives fully justify. The ancient contrast of the life within 



THE NEW FOREST 75 

and without the " pale," is nowhere more picturesquely suggested than 
by the line of old cottages at " Hill Top," at the edge of Beaulieu 
Heath. The cottages are all set in narrow strips of garden, won from 
the heath. These bits of ground are now fertile and well cultivated. 
The houses themselves present an odd contrast of original poverty and 
present comfort. In structure they are, for the most part, of the 
roughest, and by no means most durable order. Some are of one story, 
some of two. The walls of all, or nearly all, are of yellow clay, some- 
thing like the " cob " or " clay-lump " cottages and barns of South 
Devon. The roofs are straw-thatch, though in some this has been 
replaced by slate. The material of the walls seems hardly adequate to 
support two stories, for in many the wall bends inwards, and the lattice 
windows, and wooden frames seem to have taken kindly to the curvature. 
In some of the gardens the original house, which gave the " claim " to 
the land, still remains, a kind of "doll's house," which was enough to 
support the legal fiction of occupation. Most of the cottages have little 
pony-stables, piggeries, and wood-stacks attached, and though the exterior 
is humble and sometimes dilapidated, a glance at the interior gives every 
evidence of comfort and good living. The rooms are well and sub- 
stantially furnished, with abundance of brightly kept household gear. 
There are flowers in the windows, pretty curtains and blinds, and the 
small and pleasing evidences of a mind so far free from the hardships of 
life as to find time for the enjoyment of its minor amenities. Above all 
the children are healthy, well dressed, and in many cases of singular 
beauty. There is one type which seems common in these cottages on 
the high uplands of the forest, gray eyes with dark lashes, small regular 
features, and a complexion of the most delicate pink and white, not the 
common cherrv-cheeked complexion of rustic good looks, but of a far 
purer and more refined order, which seems as characteristic of the 
children of the forest as their quiet and reserved demeanour. 

Men living the life of these commoners, attract an amount of 
interest and sympathy which must have its root in an appeal to some 
widely diffused and common sentiment. They are not a numerous class, 
the owners of from one to twenty acres being about 580. But these only 
hold -^Lth part of the land entitled to rights of common, which are always 
attached to some particular house or piece of land. These are let by the 



76 THE NEW FOREST 

great proprietors to tenants who pay rent both for houses, land and forest 
rights, and make the same use of them as is done by the small freeholders. 
Both are an extremely honest, industrious and independent class of men, 
among whom theft is unknown, and drunkenness and improvidence 
extremely rare. 

The existence of both is dependent upon the forest rights which they 
enjoy, the nature of which is better ascertained than their origin. In the 
case of many holdings the title is extremely ancient, in others a claim to 
ownership made by a squatter has probably been followed by a concession of 
common rights. Their present extent is very carefully defined. The 
first and most important is the right of pasture for all kinds of cattle but 
goats and sheep, except in the case of the owners of the Manors of 
Beaulieu and Brockenhurst. 5,469 cattle were turned out in the forest 
by commoners in the year 1892. The second is the " common of mast," 
or right of feeding hogs, otherwise called " pannage " ; and this is so 
valuable that in a good acorn year each pig run in the torest is said to 
increase ten shillings in value, without cost to the owner. 

"Pannage time" lasts, properly speaking, from September 25th 
to November 22nd ; but though the Crown has the right to impound 
pigs found in the forest at other times, this rule is seldom enforced. 
When there are no nuts and acorns. New Forest pigs graze almost like 
cattle, cropping the grass with their teeth. Formerly they must have 
been the most characteristic animal of the forest, after the deer. Cobbett, 
on his ride to Beaulieu from Lyndhurst, says: " Of pigs this day we saw 
many, many thousand. I should think we saw at least a hundred hogs to 
one deer. I stopped at one time and counted the hogs and pigs just round 
me, and they amounted to 140, all within fifty or sixty yards of my 
horse," 

The gathering of the pigs in " pannage time " was until recently one 
of the most complete survivals of Saxon days known in this country. 
The swineherd received from each commoner the pigs he wished fatted, 
with a small payment for each animal, A convenient place had been 
previously selected for a rough sty, where there was plenty of beech-mast, 
acorns, and water, " In Bolderwood Walk," says Mr, Rogers, author 
of the " Guide to the New Forest," " there were many favourite localities, 
as it contained the greatest number of beech tree3. When the spot was 



THE NEW FOREST 



11 



reached by the collected hogs, they were generally tired by their long 
journey, but an abundant supper was provided for them, and they woke 
up next day refreshed by a good sleep." This thoughtful provision for 
the pigs' comfort is characteristic of the high respect in which the friendly 
forest pig is held by its owner. " Plenty of food was then given them 
for breakfast, the ' herd ' meanwhile blowing his horn ; after which they 
had a little liberty, a few old ' pannage hogs ' accompanying them as 




Highdife. 



leaders. They usually did not want to stray far, as food was very 
abundant, and in the evening were called by the horn, and fed as before. 
After two or three days they were as obedient as possible, and would 
assemble at any time on hearing the signal." 

The old-fashioned, wild-looking, rust-coloured pig seems to have 
disappeared from the forest, and good black modern swine have replaced 
them. But they take very kindly to the life, and no one can know what 
an intelligent, cleanly animal the pig is by nature till he has seen him 
roaming half wild among the big trees, and apparently by common 



78 THE NEW FOREST 

consent, the leader in all the daily movements for food, shelter, water, of 
the mixed herd of cows, ponies, and donkeys with which he associates. 

There are two minor common rights, probably very ancient, both of 
which are much prized by their possessors. They confer the right of 
fuel on the cottages to which they are attached. One is the right of 
" Turbary," or cutting turf on the heaths, the other that of " Estovers " 
or fuel. The turf right is not much used, except by the forest com- 
moners ; and while stick gathering is so easy in the wooded parts of the 
forest a poor man need never want small fuel. The rights of " Estover " 
are supposed to date from the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who enacted 
that " no inhabiters of any house builded since the beginning of the 
Queen Majesty's reign that now is, shall be allowed any wood in the 
same forest to be burnt or expended therein." This right was much 
abused, as whole trees of oak and beech were assigned, for the right 
now applies to the timber of the hard-wood trees. This is now supplied 
from the " waste of the forest," and by some curious result of the 
drawing of recent acts, not from the inclosed young plantations, but 
from the old woods of the Stuarts or Elizabeth. The right is, how- 
ever, being bought up by the Crown when practicable, and the number 
of loads is reduced from 800 to 367. 

The future of these ancient woods is a matter of some concern to 
those who are intrusted with the management of the forest. It is feared 
that as the old trees die there will be few or no young trees to replace 
them, as the greater number are destroyed by the cattle when saplings. 
Meantime the 20,000 acres of Crown plantations are growing up to take 
their phice, and as these are thrown open, the area covered with timber 
trees will increase instead of diminishing. Meantime, when frost and 
storm have widened the breaches in the Tudor woods, portions can be 
inclosed from time to time for natural reproduction and the preservation 
of that balance of wood, heath, swamp and pasture which makes the 
scenery of the New Forest unique among the beauties of England. 



INDEX 



Adder-catcher, The, 32, 33 
Alum Green, 27 
Avon, The, 6 

Beaulieu, 5, 6, 58 
Abbey, 58 
Gate House, 62 
Heath, 22 
River, 68, 70 

Bogs, The Forest, 26 

Brockenhurst, 10, 34 

Buckler's Hard, 73 

Cadenham Oak, 54 
Calshot Castle, 6, 61 
Charcoal Burner's Hut, 19 
Christchurch, 6 
Cobbett, 7, 23 
CufFnaU's Park, 12, 14 

Deer, 38, 39 

„ hunt, 39, 40 
Dennv Bog, 23 



Forest Law, 7, 8 

Gritnam Wood, 20, 26 

Heaths, The Forest, 22, 23, 24 
Henry H., 8, 53 
„ HI., 8, 61 

Herons, 27, 30 
Honey-buzzard, 32 
Hurst Castle, 61 
Hussey, Edward, 60 

Innocent HI., 61 

John, King, 58 

Knightwood, 28 

Oak, 28 

Langton, Archbishop, 61 
Lingard, 6 
Lymington, 5, 6, 68 

,, River, 17 

Lyndhurst, 10, 12, 24 



Emery Down, 14 



Malwood, 5, 53, 56 



So 



INDEX 



Mark Ash, i8, 21 
Matley Heath, 23 
Matley Wood, 24 
Minstcad Park, 56 

Ober Heath, 22 
„ Water, 23 
Otters, 28 
Ouse, 6 

Poole, 54, 55 
Ponies, 4.3 
Pony Show, 48 
Purkiss, 53 

Ralph, Lord Montagu, 60 
Rhinefield, 23 
Ringwood, 12 



Rouen, 5 

Rufus, 6, 12, 52 
" Stone, 54 

St. Leonard's, 63, 64 
Southampton Water, 6 
Stony-cross, 52 
Swan Green, 14, 48 
Swine, 76 

Tyrrell, Sir Walter, 52 

Verderers' Hall, 10 
Vinney Ridge, 27, 28, 30 

William L, 6, 10 
Winchester, 5, 53 
Woodcock, 24 
Wriotheslev, Sir Thomas, 60 



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